You’ve had your morning coffee, grabbed your bags, and you’re headed out towards the train station. You’re just super excited to get to your destination! Unfortunately, that enthusiasm usually lasts until you hear it’s an 8-hour trip. How many of you doze off on your seats and miss out on some spectacularly scenic train rides?
Many people nowadays tend to forget about that timeless saying: “it’s the journey, not the destination that counts”! No matter how cheesy it may sound, you’ll understand its true meaning after you’ve explored these amazing European landscapes – on rails with some great insider tips!
#1 West Rhine Railway, Germany
When it comes to scenic train rides in Germany, this route is best enjoyed during spring when the flowers on the trees are in bloom. Of course, if you travel here in the fall you can observe a fantastic canvas of color as the leaves lose their luscious green.
Aside from the natural landscape, take the chance to wander at the multitude of castles along the Rhine, as the train takes you from Köln to Mainz. To complete the folk tale atmosphere, make sure you drop by the Lorelei statue in St. Goarshausen as well.
#2 The Scottish Highlands, Scotland
Have you heard about a little franchise called “Harry Potter”? If you weren’t somehow flung through time into the present, then you probably have. Scenic train rides through the Scottish Highlands (from Fort William to Mallaig and back, to be exact) take you through such magical places as the Glenfinnan Viaduct.
Maybe you’re not a fan of the series itself. Still, nobody can deny that the sight of Scottish plains and their lochs and rivers brings a metaphorical tear to the eye of onlookers. Blast “The Flower of Scotland” in your headphones while admiring the landscape for the full experience.
#3 Groningen to Amsterdam, The Netherlands
On our recent road trip experience, we’ve stopped by Amsterdam, which holds a special place in Agness’ heart for various reasons. Scenic train rides from Groningen to Amsterdam will allow you to see much of the Netherlands at very little expense. And, hopefully, fall in love with it just as much as Agness ☺.
As you may know, the country is famous for its vast tulip fields all throughout the country, as well as the windmills you can see scattered among them. We recommend the month of April for your ride, as that is your best chance to catch the tulips in full bloom.
#4 Madrid to Oviedo, Spain
When you distract yourself with a book, tablet, smartphone, or whatever – you never stop and stare out the train window. Think of how many small cozy villages and sparkling, winding rivers you’ve missed just because of it!
Luckily, scenic train rides such as the one from the Spanish capital to Asturias will ensure you get your fill of traditional countryside. On the 5-hour trip, you can also take a peek at the Picos de Europa, which seem almost otherworldly in their magnificence.
#5 The Flåm Railway, Norway
Frankly, Norway has no shortage of landscapes to delight your eyes, nor is it lacking in routes for travelers’ enjoyment. The Bergen, Rauma and Flåm railways are all part of this web of memorable tracks.
If you’re feeling up for a longer trip with more sights to see, you can hop on a train from Oslo on the way to Bergen and drop off at Myrdal Station. Here you can take the train through the steep climbs, admire the famous Norwegian fjords, and stop for a bit at the Kjosfossen falls for a rest and some neat pictures.
We recommend sitting on the right-hand side for the best possible view of the scenery, but if you can’t make it, the ride is worth it nonetheless. The Norwegian NRK station even has a minute-by-minute video guide of the trip, so you can decide for yourself!
#6 Cinque Terre, Italy
One of the shorter scenic train rides around here (40 minutes), but one that gives you some great hiking opportunities between the villages of Levanto and La Spezia. The five colorful coastal villages are filled with houses which cling to steep terraces, making for a spectacular rural scenery.
The great news is that after the short train trip you can hike all the way back to the starting point, passing through the five connected villages on the way. Enjoy the vineyards, olive groves, and of course the vast blue of the Ligurian Sea.
Otherwise, atop the highest of cliffs there is a religious sanctuary corresponding to each of the villages. They journey to each of the retreats used to be a method of atonement due to the difficult, steep climb. Nowadays, the journey is much easier and makes for a perfect hiking trail in late spring or the beginning of autumn (when it’s less hot outside).
#7 Inlandsbanan, Sweden
Pack some snacks and refreshments for the trip, because it’s going to be a long one. This is one of the longest scenic train rides on our list, clocking in at 14 hours, with almost 1300 km to travel. The Scandinavian railway adventure takes you across some of the most beautiful scenery this side of the Arctic Circle.
Keep your eyes peeled for the various elk, moose, and bears hanging out in the dense forests filled with pine, birch and spruce. The train takes a longer stop every so often, so you can check out the various museums or just take the chance to have a meal because Sweden has so much variety to offer.
If you love the wilderness and don’t need the luxury, you truly can’t miss the chance to take the Inlandsbanan route!
It may seem easier to just hop on a plane and get it over with in an hour or so. But, truth be told, some of the most spectacular views won’t be found at 10 km in the air. Rather, the cheaper, relatively hassle-free train route will make for the most priceless memories.
Been to any of these incredible locations? Share your experience or highlight your favorite European train experience by sharing your comments below!
Written by Agness and Cez of etramping.com