1. Derry-Coleraine railway, 2. Florence to Naples, 3. Barcelona to Montserrat, 4. Semmering Railway, 5. Bohinj Railway, 6. Bergen Railway, 7. Nice to Ventimiglia, 8. Sarajevo to Mostar, 9. West Highland Railway, 10. Lidköping to Mariestad. It's where the "flight shame" movement began, and it's little surprise: Europe has a fantastic rail network, with some truly stunning excursions that are vacations in and of themselves. Here are ten of the most stunning rides you'll ever see.
- Derry-Coleraine railway
- Florence to Naples
- Barcelona to Montserrat
- Semmering Railway
- Bohinj Railway
- Bergen Railway
- Nice to Ventimiglia
- Sarajevo to Mostar
- West Highland Railway
- Lidköping to Mariestad
“One of the most magnificent railway excursions in the world,” according to travel expert Michael Palin — what else do you need to know? The 38-minute voyage leaves Derry and winds its way across the countryside until it reaches the Atlantic Ocean at Benone Strand, one of CNN Travel’s favorite beaches. The lines go directly alongside the sand here, but if you can’t resist a walk on the beach, you can get off shortly afterward at Castlerock.
The train then heads inland again, this time following the Bann River to Coleraine. Mountsandel Fort, high up on the Bann’s high bank, is the first human settlement on the entire island of Ireland, and you’ll be following in some important footsteps.From 7600 to 7900 BCE, it was inhabited.
- Country: Northern Ireland
Florence to Naples
Only in Italy could one of the country’s major thoroughfares be so lovely. From Milan to Naples, Italy’s major north-south line passes through the flat plains of the Po Valley and then via mountain tunnels from Bologna to Florence. If you continue south, you’ll pass through some of Italy’s most famous landscapes as this ountry seizes one of Europe’s Most Beautiful Train Journeys.
When you leave Florence’s Santa Maria Novella station, you’ll see the renowned Duomo, then cross the Arno River before chugging through Tuscany, with undulating hills on either side, and then into Umbria and Lazio.
The ragged Apennine mountains can be seen from the left, while Orvieto, one of central Italy’s most magnificent old towns, can be seen from the right.
Orvieto was carved out of a tuff rock bluff by the Etruscan civilisation. You’ll drive by the historic city walls on your way into Rome. Do you have some spare time? Continue on to Naples after Rome for breathtaking vistas of Mount Vesuvius as you weave your way into the city.
Tuff cliffs beneath Orvieto, Umbria, Italy – De Agostini/Getty Images
Barcelona to Montserrat
The fearsomely gorgeous trek to Montserrat, the saw-toothed mountain range towering up in the distance behind the seaside city and home to a Benedictine abbey since the 11th century, begins from Barcelona’s great Plaça d’Espanya (although the current building is from the 1800s). The Cremallera rack railway has been hauling visitors up the hillside since 1892, and the 23-mile railway line rumbles through the Catalan countryside to the foot of the mountains (with a break from 1957-2003).
It’s an amazing ride, one of Europe’s Most Beautiful Train Journeys, with the first 2.5 miles climbing 1,800 feet thanks to rack traction. Once you’ve reached the monastery’s level, you can ride the Sant Joan funicular further into the peaks.From there you can hike in the mountains and enjoyr the view of .
- Country: Spain
The Cremallera rack railway hoists visitors up the mountainside – alzamu79/Adobe Stock
The Semmering Railway, which opened in 1854 and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is still one of the most beautiful railways in the world. Even better, if you’re traveling between Vienna and Venice, you can take this train, which is a lovely way to travel between two of Europe’s most beautiful cities.
The Semmering runs over 25 miles through the Austrian Alps between Gloggnitz and Semmering, passing through 16 tunnels, 15 viaducts, and over 100 bridges, as well as a journey through a roughly 3,000-foot mountain pass with lots of exhilarating turns.
It was Europe’s first mountain railway, built to connect Vienna and Trieste (the Austro-Hungarian empire’s port at the time), and it’s still one of the best. If you’re doing it as part of a longer tour, you’ll notice the Semmering section not only because of the beautiful vistas, but also because of the 57 homes erected for railway workers along the line.
The Semmering line was built to connect Vienna and Trieste – Thomas Aichinger/imageBROKER/Shutterstock
Slovenia is an interesting area to travel by train because of its location: its 800 miles of railway lines are part of larger networks connecting Italy and Hungary, as well as Austria and Croatia. This one is no less epic; it’s part of a network that runs from Prague to Trieste, connecting landlocked Central Europe to the Adriatic Sea.
The Bohinj is one of Slovenia’s most historic railway lines, with 28 tunnels (one of which is just under 17,500 feet long) and 65 bridges, including the world’s largest stone railway bridge, the Solkan Bridge, which spans the Soa River.
- Country: Slovenia
The Bohinj line slices through Slovenia, and takes you over the world’s largest stone railway bridge – DragoNika/Adobe Stock
The Bergen railway, which was built in 1909, connects Norway’s capital with its second city. This isn’t your average commuter train; it’s a breathtaking seven-hour journey through Norway’s highland plateaus, past lakes, hikable slopes, and a settlement only reachable by train: Finse, at the railway’s highest point.
You can connect to the charming Flm Railway in Myrdal, which takes you up alongside high cliffs, lush foliage, and a stunning waterfall on an hour-long trip that is a checklist of traditional Norwegian beauty. in fact it is one of Europe’s Most Beautiful Train Journeys.
The Bergensbanen is a 308-mile road that travels through some of Europe’s most difficult terrain in six and a half hours. It was constructed between 1875 and 1909, and as one might think for a railway that climbs to a height of 1200 meters, it was not an easy task.
- Country: Norway
Finse, on the Oslo-Bergen route, is a tiny village only accessible by train – dudlajzov/Adobe Stock
Nice to Ventimiglia
Of course, you’ve come for the sights — awe-inspiring panoramas of the shimmering Mediterranean, sandwiched amid some of the region’s most charming cities. This 50-minute route, though, will appeal to your inner travel enthusiast, as it passes through three nations in under an hour, beginning in France, dipping into Monaco, returning to France, and ending just beyond the Italian border.
Starting from Nice Riquier station, you’ll enjoy stunning views for the majority of the journey, passing by Art Deco houses and alternating between snatches of the Mediterranean between the trees and rattling along entire bays with villages heaped up the cliffsides. You’ll pass through some of the Cote d’Azur’s most renowned towns, including ze (above) and lemon-filled Menton, as well as gain fantastic views of Monte-Carlo. When the scent of flowering bougainvillea fills the air, you’ve arrived in Italy.
- Country:France, Monaco, Italy
The Nice to Ventimiglia line sweeps you along the bottom of some of the Med’s prettiest villages – Francois Roux/Adobe Stock
Sarajevo to Mostar
The two-hour train journey between Bosnia’s quirky capital and its tourist honeypot, charming Mostar, is breathtaking, winding beneath green tiny mountains and craggy cliffs as it follows the emerald Neretva river.
You’ll arrive in Mostar, one of CNN Travel’s favorite tiny European towns, just upstream from the famed bridge, which was erected by the Ottomans before being destroyed by Croat forces in 1993 and rebuilt stone for stone in 2004. (Mostar is the country’s fifth-largest city, located on the Neretva River. Mostar was named after the bridge keepers (mostari) who guarded the Stari Most (Old Bridge) over the Neretva in medieval times. The Old Bridge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site erected by the Ottomans in the 16th century and regarded an excellent piece of Islamic architecture in the Balkans, is one of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s most visited attractions.)
- Country: Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Sarajevo-Mostar route takes you through canyons carved by the emerald Neretva river- DanitaDelimont.com/Adobe Stock
West Highland Railway
The Glenfinnan viaduct, which stretches 1,250 feet through the Scottish Highlands, with trains chugging across the Finnan River at a height of 100 feet, is probably most known for its appearance in “Harry Potter.”
The majestic views on Scotland’s most famous railway route transport you straight into the Highlands without even leaving the carriage, making this one of the world’s most spectacular train trips. It starts in Glasgow and heads northwest, ending in Mallaig, where you may catch a ferry to the Isle of Skye.
Along the way, you’ll pass through Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park (yep, you’ll chug alongside the loch), past Ben Nevis, and across Rannoch Moor, where the line is “floated” above the peat bogs, with red deer and stags often your closest neighbors for miles.
- Country: Scotland
The West Highland Railway’s 1,250-foot viaduct was used in the “Harry Potter” films., Marcin Kadziolka/Adobe Stock
Lidköping to Mariestad
Sweden, being the birthplace of the “flight shame” movement, offers a plethora of scenic train routes, including the Stockholm to Narvik line (in Norway’s Arctic Circle), which is a true landmark. It is, however, a long one that necessitates preparation.
The Lidköping to Mariestad route, which was chosen Sweden’s nicest train travel by rail customers in 2018, is a shorter option. As it proceeds northeast, the single-track railway skirts around Vänern, the country’s largest lake, riding up into the Kinnekulle plateau for superb lake vistas. Are you tired of looking at the lake? In the winter, keep an eye out for deer and moose along the line, or visit in the spring when the plateau is carpeted with wild garlic.
- Country: Sweden
Sweden’s loveliest line takes you over the Kinnekulle plateau – Andreas Hoff/Adobe Stock