10 of the best European rail journeys

When it comes to discovering Europe’s beauty, nothing compares to the magic of a rail journey - battleface.com
Approx read: 4 mins

Whether you’re a train enthusiast or travel aficionado, you’re bound to enjoy the ride.

With an extensive railway network, Europe offers breathtaking vistas and memorable experiences. Here are our top ten rail journeys in Europe for 2023, a blend of historic routes, picturesque landscapes, and cultural highlights.

Glacier Express, Switzerland

Embark on a mesmerizing 8-hour journey through the heart of the Swiss Alps on the Glacier Express. This iconic train ride connects Zermatt and St. Moritz. Offering panoramic views of snow-capped peaks, dramatic gorges, and enchanting alpine villages. Be sure to indulge in local delicacies on-board and capture the beauty of the Landwasser Viaduct along the way.

Bergen Railway, Norway

Embark on a breathtaking journey from Oslo to Bergen on the Bergen Railway, considered one of Europe’s most scenic train routes. Traverse the rugged landscapes of the Hardangervidda plateau. Witness gushing waterfalls, and marvel at snow-capped mountains. As you approach Bergen, the train descends through magnificent fjords, providing stunning views.

El Transcantábrico Clásico, Spain

A 643km journey from León to Santiago de Compostela. Never has the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela felt so indulgent. El Transcantábrico’s lavish compartments and excursions make for an enlightening ride. The Clásico itinerary hugs the northern coast, with stop-offs at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and seafood suppers in Santander. On longer trips, you can hike in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Picos de Europa National Park.

Bernina Express, Switzerland/Italy

Embark on a truly international adventure aboard the Bernina Express. This journey traverses the breathtaking landscapes of Switzerland and Italy. Departing from Switzerland, this train journey takes you across the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Rhaetian Railway. This scenic route showcases majestic glaciers, turquoise lakes, and charming alpine villages. Finally reaching Tirano in Italy as your final destination.

Inlandsbanan, Sweden

This is slow travel at its finest, heading up past the Arctic Circle and into Swedish Lapland. In fact, its drivers love an excuse to stretch their legs. Scheduled stops to take a dip in Lake Siljan or visit Sami villages and their reindeer herds along the way are worth it. Before you know it, you’re cooing over a moose and foraging for berries. All thoughts of the timetable long forgotten. Order fresh dishes from local restaurants at each stop such as lingonberry crumble.

La Ligne des Cévennes, France

Every twist and turn of this train line is an engineering marvel. It ticks off a mighty 106 tunnels and over a thousand bridges. The lofty (46m high) Chamborigaud viaduct is a scene-stealer. Although the track reaches its pinnacle on the summit at La Bastide (1,023m). Gentler pleasures can be found in the rolling vineyards of the Auvergne and the chestnut forests of Cévennes National Park. Sit back and enjoy the track’s picturesque dalliance with the River Allier.

Linha do Douro, Portugal

This train line from Porto ploughs deep into the heartlands. Sweeping past magnificent rock walls and rambling quintas (wine estates). Better yet, the track swaps between shores, so there’s no such thing as a bad seat. Pinhão Station must be one of Europe’s prettiest terminals, trimmed with intricate azulejo tilework. Look out, too, for the towering gorge around Régua and the ancient rock art of the Côa Valley at Pocinho.

Rhine Valley Line, Germany

Explore the picturesque Rhine Valley by boarding a train that winds along the Rhine River. Pass through enchanting medieval castles, vineyards, and charming towns. This amazing route between Mainz and Koblenz offers ample opportunities to witness the mesmerizing landscapes that have inspired poets, painters, and composers throughout history.

The Jacobite, Scotland

Departing from Fort William to Mallaig this 84 mile round trip takes you past a list of impressive extremes. Harry Potter fans get to see the 21-arched Glenfinnan viaduct (made famous in the films). Described as the greatest railway journey in the world! Starting near the highest mountain in Britain, Ben Nevis, it visits Britain’s most westerly mainland railway station, Arisaig. The route passes the deepest freshwater loch in Britain, Loch Morar and the shortest river in Britain, River Morar. Finally arriving next to the deepest seawater loch in Europe, Loch Nevis!

Ffestiniog Railway, Wales

A short 21.7km; one hour, 15 minutes journey from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Porthmadog. Operated by the oldest surviving train company in the world. The Ffestiniog Railway has run for almost 200 years through Snowdonia National Park. The route is a rich feast of rivers, waterfalls, mountains and ancient woodlands. There’s also a great looping spiral section lending thrills. Add on the Welsh Highland Railway ( Ffestiniog’s sister route) between Porthmadog and Caernarfon to extend your fun.

Whichever train journey tickles your fancy, they all provide amazing vistas. Each promises an immersive experience of stunning landscapes, cultural heritage, and unforgettable moments. Whether you’re seeking alpine scenes, coastal charm, or a glimpse into history, these train journeys offer an unparalleled perspective on the diverse beauty of the European continent. Grab your camera, sit back, and let these rail journeys transport you to a world of natural wonders and cultural treasures.