The most scenic train journeys in Europe that will inspire you to travel by train

Thanks to the great engineers of the Old Continent, Europe has a superb train network that connects every point of the continent, from big metropolitan cities to remote, picturesque mountain villages. Europe’s train network passes through some of the most difficult terrains, including icy rivers, fjords, green highlands, and snowy valleys, giving us a chance to enjoy some of the best scenic train journeys in Europe that inspire even more travelers to visit the Old Continent.

El Transcantábrico, Spain

best scenic train journeys in europe

Duration: 8 days
Distance: 780 kilometers
Fare: € 3,700

What’s better than experiencing the staggering natural beauty of northern Spain with a 5-star train? During this journey, you’ll get to stay in original 1923 Pullman coaches with all the modern facilities of the 21st century. The tour includes exploring the historic towns of the region, visiting the finest beaches along the Bay of Biscay, and boarding the train overnight. The journey starts at Irun, close to the French border, pass through San Sebastian, Bilbao, Asturias, Santander, and Ferrol in eight days and allows passengers to see the best Northern Spain has to offer.

Slow Trains through Asturias

asturias train

Duration: 4 hours
Distance: 120 kilometers
Fare: €10 one-way

El Transcantábrico is an expensive experience, but if you take away the accommodation in an original 1923 Pullman coach, you can experience the same journey for a fraction of the price. Asturias is famous for the slow trains that pass through the region, allowing passengers to see the virgin beaches, sweeping bays, and picturesque fishing villages dotted with red-roofed homesteads and hórreos. The most picturesque part of the journey is from the hidden town of Cudillero to the historic city of Ribadesella. The journey takes 3-4 hours and it’s the best budget option to experience a part of the magic of El Transcantábrico.

La Rhune, France

la rhune train

Duration: 34 minutes
Distance: 4 kilometers
Fare: €19 return

Train de la Rhune is one of the best scenic train journeys not only in Europe but in the whole world. The journey lasts only 30 minutes but in this time, you’ll ride on an old-fashioned train that passes through a 100-years-old railway that leads from Saint-Jean-de-Luz to a 900-meters-high peak of the Pyrenees from where you can get a 360-degrees panoramic view that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pyrenees and the coast of Basque. It’s one of the most spectacular viewpoints in France and you can have it for only €19 (both ways).

Train de la Côte Bleue, France

Train de la Côte Bleue

Duration: 1.5 hours
Distance: 32 kilometers
Fare: €10 one-way

The south of France is famous for its laid-back, Mediterranean vibes, beautiful nature, and jaw-dropping landscapes. Hence, this list of the best scenic train journeys in Europe wouldn’t be complete without at least one train ride from this region. One thing you should note though is that, to fully experience this journey, you have to take the regional Train de la Côte Bleue. France’s TGV trains are too fast to enjoy the view and often turn even the most scenic journeys into a disappointing experience. Train de la Côte Bleue runs between Marseille and Miramas and the journey includes 1.5 hours of scenic views of the shimmering blue sea, lush-green forests dotted with picturesque small towns.

The Little Yellow Train, France

Ligne de Cerdagne

Duration: 1.5 hours
Distance: 67 kilometers
Fare: €13.60

The Little Yellow Train has been one of the most popular train journeys in France for more than 100 years. This train journey starts at Villefranche-de-Conflent, goes through the Regional Nature Park of the Catalan Pyrénées, all the way up to the highest train station in France, Bolquere (1,593 meters), and ends at Latour-de-Carol-Enveitg. And if you think things can’t get better, you’re wrong; during the summer, the train runs with an open-top carriage. Another good thing about this journey is that you don’t have to worry about booking tickets in advance or not being able to find a ticket if you book in advance. The tickets for the Little Yellow Train can only be purchased at the train station before your journey.

West Highland Line, Scotland

West Highland Line

Duration: 1.5 hours
Distance: 69 kilometers
Fare: Starting from £7.40

Featuring isolated highlands, rugged lochs, and glimpses of coastline, the train ride from Fort William to Mallaig is one of the best scenic train journeys in Europe. The journey also includes some spectacular views of Ben Nevis and if you’re wondering where do these divine landscapes look so familiar from, it’s from Harry Potter’s Hogwart’s Express. Some of the best movie-lake landscapes you’ll encounter on this journey include The Glenfinnan Viaduct over the waters of Loch Shiel, the rocky pinnacles of the Cobbler, the steep Monessie Gorge, and the divine Ben Lui.

Caledonian Sleeper, The UK

Caledonian Sleeper

Duration: 8 hours
Distance: 804 kilometers
Fare: Starting from £45 for comfort seats and £140 for classic rooms

The legendary Caledonian Sleeper has recently undergone a £150 million revamp that seems to help in bringing back the glory days of Britain’s most iconic overnight train. Caledonia’s Sleeper runs between London and Edinburgh and features some of the most beautiful sunset views Scotland has to offer. The classic rooms and even the cabins look very posh and the food served on the train is delicious. Overall, it’s one train ride you don’t want to miss if you want to experience one of the best scenic train journeys in Europe.

Belmond Grand Hibernian, Ireland

Belmond Grand Hibernian

Duration: 2/4/6 days
Distance: 300 kilometers/810 kilometers/1,250 kilometers
Fare: €3,300/€5,800/€9,100

This is one of the newest train journeys in Europe that started operating in 2016 with the goal to showcase the best of Ireland’s natural beauties while giving passengers the chance to stay in one of the most luxurious trains in the world. The Grand Hibernian includes tours that last 2,4 or 6 nights. The journeys include food and accommodation throughout the trip as well as organized tours to some of Ireland’s most famous landmarks.

Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Duration: 17-24 hours
Distance: 1,160 kilometers
Fare: £2,365, budget alternative €139

The old Orient Express is one of the most majestic train journeys that dates back to the 1920s’, also known as the Golden age of rail on the Old Continent. Close to $20 million dollars were spent in restoring the sleeping cars to their original form while keeping all the glamour. This is also probably the only train journey that has a dress code; most of the passengers are dressed very nicely when leaving their coaches. As for the train ride, a journey through the heart of Europe that features the charming towns of Northern Italy, the snow-capped Alps, and the natural beauties of France can never be boring. The journey on the luxurious Orient Express costs more than 2,000 pounds but you can also opt-in for some of the less luxurious journeys that will allow you to experience the same views (minus the luxury) for only €139.

 

Trenino Verde, Sardinia

Trenino Verde

Duration: 7 hours
Distance: 250 kilometers
Fare: €25

Trenino Verde offers the most idyllic and at places, only, passages through the most remote parts of Sardinia. The Trenino Verde is an unforgettable experience that allows you to see the best of Sardinia in only a few hours. The journey crosses through the heart of Sardinia’s rugged terrain dotted with charming, remote villages that will inevitably inspire you to spend a few more days on the island and discover some of its picturesque hidden gems.

The Brocken, Germany

brocken train

Duration: 1-2 hours
Distance: 19 kilometers
Fare: Starting from €25

The Brocken Railway is one of the most spectacular train rides in Germany. It runs from Drei Annen Hohne station to the summit of Brocken (1,141 meters), while showcasing the serenity of Harz National Park. There are 10 trains that travel this rail line every day and all of them are powered by coal-burning steam locomotives that give the journey a unique, old-fashioned vibe.

Central Rhine Railway, Germany

Central Rhine Railway

Duration: 1 hour
Distance: 61 kilometers
Fare: Starting from €9

If you ever take a train ride on the Central Rhine Railway, you’ll see where a lot of European fairy tales get inspiration from. The railway runs between Bingen and Koblenz and along the way, you can click pictures of some of the most divine landscapes of the picturesque Rhine Valley. Get ready to see wild, swirling waters, majestic castles on the bank of the river, and endless stretches of lush green forests.

Höllentalbahn (Black Forest Railway, Germany)

Höllentalbahn

Duration: 2 hours
Distance: 75 kilometers
Fare: Starting from €5

“Höllentalbahn actually translates to Hell Valley Railway but this journey is actually the closest thing it comes to paradise in Germany”, I was thinking as the old train was crossing of the 40-meters-high Ravenna Bridge, offering me a spectacular view of the mesmerizing Ravenna Gorge, one of the highlights of this scenic train ride. This is arguably the steepest railway in Germany and it crosses through some of the country’s most pristine parts. If you want to discover some of the hidden gems that lie in this forest, Höllentalbahn is also a great option because there are numerous stops where you can get off and continue your exploration by foot.

Munich to Innsbruck, Germany & Austria

best scenic train journeys in europe

Duration: 3 hours
Distance: 157 kilometers
Fare: Starting from €9

We can’t have a list of the best scenic train journeys in Europe without mentioning this train ride that features Bavaria’s most scenic landscapes on the way to Innsbruck, one of the best winter destinations in Europe. Get ready to see a lot of glittering, blue lakes, snowy mountain landscapes, cute villages, and of course, a myriad of beautiful mountain towns, including Mittenwald and Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Mariazell Railway, Austria

Mariazell Railway

Duration: 1.5 hours
Distance: 78 kilometers
Fare: Starting from €9

With all the scenic routes that surround Austria, it’s very difficult to choose one or two, but since we do, the Mariazell Railway has to be on this list. The journey starts at St. Polten near Vienna and it passes through the picturesque Pielach Valley before leading to Mariazzell, one of the most famous pilgrimage sites in Austria. There are a lot of options to arrange your transportation, from high-end alternatives like Railjet Trains in Austria and the modern Himmelstreppe to the old-fashioned steam-pulled carriage trains for the nostalgic travelers but no matter which one you choose, you’re in for one of the best scenic train journeys in Europe.

Semmering Railway, Austria

Semmering Rail

Duration: Less than 1 hour
Distance: 41 kilometers
Fare: Starting from €7

The Semmering Railway is famous as the first real mountain railway in the world and it crosses some of Austria’s most rugged terrains, allowing passengers to see the best of Austria’s untouched pristine beauty. The journey features a lot of tunnels, charming, Instagrammable bridges and viaducts, and the snow-peaked Alps towering over the local forests. A lot of travel enthusiasts use this train line to get off at some of the many remote trekking routes, go trekking for the rest of the day, and end the long day with a warm sauna bath in one of the many beautiful surrounding mountain towns.

Cinque Terre Railway, Italy

Cinque Terre Rail

Duration: 40 minutes
Distance: 20 kilometers
Fare: Starting from €7

The railway connecting these five colorful towns of Cinque Terre is proof that good things come in small packages. The railway stretches across only 18 kilometers and connects the towns of La Spezia, Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza,  Monterosso, and Levanto in that particular order while crossing over some of the most breath-taking cliffs towering over the Ligurian Sea, charming vineyards, and endless stretches of olive groves. If you’re looking to take a post-card-quality picture of Cinque Terre, this rail line will give you a lot of great opportunities to do so.

The Centovalli Railway, Italy & Switzerland

Centovalli Railway

Duration: 2 hours
Distance: 52 kilometers
Fare: Starting from €11

Centovalli Railway translates to “the Hundred Valley Railway” and even though this train ride passes to only a few valleys, the spectacular sights you’ll witness will make you feel like you traveled a lot longer than you actually did. This journey runs between Domodossola and Locarno and along the way showcases some of the most scenic natural beauties of northern Italy and southern Switzerland, including hidden waterfalls, chestnut groves, picturesque vineyards, and some of the bluest mountain lakes you’ve ever seen

Bernina Express, Switzerland & Italy

Bernina Express

Duration: 4 hours
Distance: 144 kilometers
Fare: Starting from €19.90

The Bernina Express is probably the only train ride on this list that’s listed as a UNESCO Heritage Site. This happened in 2008 when UNESCO classified this 144-kilometers-long mountain network as a part of its list because of the network’s contribution to opening the remote communities of the high Alps to the rest of Europe. The line runs from Saint Moritz to Tirano, while passing through some of Europe’s most remote forests and hills, culminating at the Bernina Pass (2,253 meters). These trains are used mostly by tourists.

Glacier Express, Switzerland

Glacier Express

Duration: 7-8 hours
Distance: 291 kilometers
Fare: Starting from €85

The Glacier Express runs between Zermatt and St. Moritz, two of the most renowned ski centers in Europe. With its snowy landscapes and elevation above 2,000 meters, this train ride is deservingly included in most lists of the best scenic journeys in Europe. The Glacier Express also passes through 91 mountain tunnels, 291 bridges with every next bridge offering a more beautiful view than the previous one. The direct ticket at the Glacier Express costs €85 and above (depending on the season) but you can also organize a budget variant if you don’t mind switching the train.

The Golden Pass Classic, Switzerland

Golden Pass

Duration: 5 hours
Distance: Around 300 kilometers
Fare: Starting from €15

It’s very tempting not to put all train rides in Switzerland on this list, but this is the last of Switzerland you’ll be seeing on this list, I promise. The Golden Pass is a scenic journey that takes you from Lucerne to Montreux. With its rolling meadows, beautiful mountain lakes, and snowy landscapes, this epic journey will redefine the meaning of the word ‘scenic’. If you want to add your journey a bit of luxury, consider the Golden Pass Classic that runs the same line but with refurbished cars from the Orient Express.

Flåm Line, Norway

Flåm Line

Duration: 1 hour
Length: 20km
Fare: Starting from €48

This journey might last only one hour, but it’s one of the best scenic train journeys not only in Europe but in the whole world, according to most travelers. This regional train goes from Myrdal to Flam and it includes a “horseshoe” or a spiral tunnel that will give you a great adrenaline rush in addition to the myriad of natural beauties you’ll see along the way. If you want to explore more of this region’s scenic beauty, you can also combine this train ride with a ferry trip on the Sognefjord.

Rauma Line, Norway

Rauma Line

Duration: 1.5 hours
Distance: 114 kilometers
Fare: Starting from €29

The journey from Dombås to Åndalsnes might last only 1.5 hours but in this short period of time, you can expect to see some of Scandinavia’s wildest landscapes. This train line follows the Rauva River valley that features windswept plateaus, breath-taking ice lakes, and of course, the highlight of the trip- Trollveggen; the highest perpendicular rock in Europe.

Inlandsbanan, Sweden

best scenic train journeys in europe

Duration: 13 hours
Distance: 1,288 kilometers
Fare: Starting from €191

If you hop on the Inlandsbanan, you’ll understand why so many travel magazines refer to it as “Europe’s last wilderness”. This 1,200 kilometers-long railway links Mora and Galivare with some of the most isolated Lapland communities. Throughout the journey, dense forests keep popping up on the horizon like mushrooms after rain, mile after mile. If you like seeing trees while you travel and this helps you relax, you won’t find a better journey than this one.

Baltic Sea sleeper, Malmo to Berlin 

baltic sea sleeper

Duration: 11-12 hours
Distance: 780 kilometers
Fare: Starting from €43

The Baltic Sea Sleeper is the only train on this list that includes a night cruise across the Baltic Sea but even though a large part of the journey happens overnight, the views of the Baltic coast are magical, especially in the winter. The journey starts at Malmo and heads to the Swedish port city of Trelleborg where trains are stored into a special train-ferry and are transported to Hamburg from where the journey continues to the German capital.

Habsburg Trail, Central Europe

best scenic train journeys in europe

Duration: 12 hours
Distance: 804 kilometers
Fare: Starting from €51

Even though this train ride isn’t officially named as the ‘Habsburg Train’, we decided to give this name to this journey because it passes through some of the Habsburg Monarchy’s biggest cities, including Prague, Vienna, Graz, Ljubljana, and Trieste. The only drawback of this ‘Habsburg rail line’ journey is that it doesn’t include Budapest. However, if you don’t mind switching a train or two, you can add a trip to Budapest to this journey. Alternatively, you can turn this trip into a self-guided tour and spend a couple of days in each of the most famous cities that were once a part of the Habsburg Monarchy.

Bieszczady Forest Railway, Poland

Bieszczady Forest Railway

Duration: 45 minutes
Distance: 20 kilometers
Fare:  Starting from €3

Poland has several heritage trails and this is one of them. The railway crosses through some of Poland’s most remote and least-densely populated parts while showcasing a lot of secluded forests, old isolated monasteries, and giving passengers amazing views of the rugged Bieszczady Mountains. If you want to get off-the-beaten-track and explore the Bieszczady Mountains, this train ride is a great starting point.

Gyermekvasút, Hungary

Gyermekvasút children railway hungary

Duration: 45 minutes
Distance: 11.7 kilometers
Fare: Starting from €2

Gyermekvasút is the largest Children railway in the world, with children aged 10-14 (under supervision) operating all functions of the train line, except for the train driver. The Pioneer’s Rail was built in 1948  but after the fall of communism, the name was changed. The beautiful forests of ash and oak, the surrounding lakes, and the views of Buda Hills towering over the forest make this short but epic ride one of the best scenic train journeys in Europe.

Bohinj Railway, Slovenia

Bohinj Railway

Duration: 2 hours
Distance: 75 kilometers
Fare: Starting from €8

The two-hour journey from Nova Gorica to Jesenice crosses the world’s longest stone arch railway bridge, Isonzo Gorge while offering passengers some amazing views of the Julian Alps. Most trains that run this line are operated by old steam locomotives and the train staff is wearing old uniforms from Austro-Hungarian times, giving the whole journey an interesting, historic feel.

Belgrade-Bar, Serbia and Montenegro

belgrade bar best scenic train journeys in europe

Duration: 10-12 hours
Distance: 476 kilometers
Fare: €21

Balkan countries are the perfect place to travel by train. True, they are often late and not very fast, but that gives you the chance to take your time as you enjoy the views. The journey starts at Belgrade, passes through the picturesque town of Cacak, crosses the majestic Zlatibor National Park before crossing to some of the most remote parts of Montenegro, followed by the capital, Podgorica, and finally a short ride along the Adriatic coast before reaching to the ancient city of Bar. If you like this kind of slow travel while exploring the Balkan countries, consider getting the Balkan Flexipass.

Bucharest-Cluj, Romania

transylvania train

Duration: 10-11 hours
Distance: 487 kilometers
Fare: Starting from €17

The historic Transylvanian line is coming back to life with an increased number of tourists becoming more interested in this region. The best way to see most of Transylvania while traveling is the train ride from Bucharest to Cluj, the biggest city in Transylvania. The journey lasts 11 hours, but it showcases the greenest and spookiest forests of Transylvania and some of the most beautiful castles in the region. If you can’t get enough of this place, you can also check out the Transylvania triangle train tour; a self-guided tour that allows travelers to experience the depths of Transylvania in 12 days.

Kalavryta Railway, Greece

Kalavryta Railway

Duration: Less than 1 hour
Distance: 22 kilometers
Fare: €4

Greece might be much more famous for its divine white-sand beaches but a list of the best scenic train journeys in Europe wouldn’t be complete without the Kalavryta Railway. This is one of the last remaining gauge lines in Peloponnese (most were cut due to Greece’s financial crisis). The rail line connects the two mountain towns of Diakopto and Kalavryta while crossing close to the historic site of Olympia and a seemingly endless stretch of beautiful, wild scenery that will make you feel like you’re somewhere in Switzerland rather than Greece.

Paris to Moscow

paris moscow express

Duration: 45-50 hours
Distance: 3,483kilometers
Fare: starting from €245

Every Thursday, the Russian Railways train starts an epic journey from Paris’ Central Train Station, usually arriving in Moscow on Saturday morning. The train crosses through France, Germany, Poland, and Belarus before entering Russia. During the journey, you can expect to see the best of Europe in 2 days as the train passes through the heart of Europe. It’s certainly one of the classiest ways to cross between two continents. And if this doesn’t seem exhausting, check out the last journey on this list.

Trans-Siberian Railway, Russia

Trans-Siberian Railway

Duration: 7 days
Distance: 9,258kilometers
Fare: €150-€500

Finally, this list of the best scenic train journeys in Europe can’t be complete without the Trans-Siberian Railway; the longest train ride in the world (even though geographically, most of this journey doesn’t belong to Europe). The journey crosses eight time zones and connects Moscow with the ports on the Pacific Ocean in the far east. During this week, the social barriers between passengers slowly fade away as the journey progresses. This only makes this trip even more epic than it already is. If you want to organize your journey beforehand, I suggest you book your Russian Railways tickets in advance because you probably won’t find a lot of tickets on the spot as most people book this train ride in advance.

Well, that’s all folks; these were the 34 best scenic train journeys in Europe. Did you ride on any of these? Which one is your favorite? Which one is at the top of your bucket list? Let us know in the comments!

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18 thoughts on “The most scenic train journeys in Europe that will inspire you to travel by train”

  1. We would love to try the Caledonian Sleeper. Happy to know that they did a revamp as this iconic train is definitely part of attractions and history. Happy to know that the food served is delicious. Can’t wait to be on board.

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  2. I work in the railway industry in London, Uk and have done a lot of these journey’s and each one is unique in each way. But for me any journey through the alpine region or the rugged coastlines along the med coast of Italy and France are worth a try. I havent done the Trans-Siberian railway yet but it is a dream to do (and drink lots of vodka on the way).

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  3. I’ve never heard of a train ferry before – so that puts the Baltic Sea Sleeper towards the top of the list, as I love experiences that not many others have had! And anything with a name like ‘Hell Valley Railway’ is worth doing just for the travel shock value when you casually drop the name into conversation. But the real winner for me is the Caledonian sleeper, as it’s hopefully something I’ll be experiencing in the near future. There’s an interesting range of prices – I was particularly surprised by the cost of Trans-Siberian express, which seems very inexpensive for such a long journey.

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  4. We love to travel by train. I was quite excited to read about all the options in Europe. Some of these we have travelled. But several were interesting. Northern Spain by train sounds like a perfect trip. I love the fun nature of the Little Yellow Train in France. Having an open top would be great for sightseeing. I never thought of travelling in Scotland by train. But what a great way to see some of the lochs. And the Orient Express has been on my travel wish list for some time. Need to get that booked. Thanks for the tease. Saved this for future planning.

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  5. What an amazing collection of scenic European train journeys, I only knew about a handful of these! I love the look of that short one in La Rhune, on that adorable old-fashioned train and I’d love to take the Little Yellow Train too. I keep meaning to do more of the UK rides too, especially in Scotland. And the Brocken railway, that looks like an amazing snowscape! I’ve taken trains in Switzerland and Italy and loved the views there. Adding Slovenia to my list too now.

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  6. This is some of the best train routes that I have learned about. I am inspired and I must say that I love the train routes in Europe. Even in India, we have some amazing train journeys. With our increasing dependency on flights, we have actually forgotten the fun of traveling in trains. I love the countryside views from the moving train. Cinque Terre, Austrian routes, The Brocken Railway are definitely on my list.

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  7. This is such a great compilation of train journeys in Europe. I loved the look of the Yello Train of France. The Baltic Sea sleeper sounds so interesting. I was completely unaware of the concept of train ferries. It would be interesting to travel by this one. Being from India, most of our journeys within the country happen by train. I feel train journeys are special and I love them.

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  8. I’m impressed by your post! It is so inspiring because I love trains. But I do not use them too often. I did only Cinque Terre Railway and Bieszczady from your list. It is an excellent idea to check these train journeys. El Transcantábrico in Spain looks fabulous, The Little Yellow Train, also. But my dream is the old Orient Express trip. Thanks for such detailed information, including prices and time duration.

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