There’s something enchanting about taking the train – and it’s one of the best ways to experience Europe’s most stunning regions. All you have to do is sit back and watch a beautiful world chug by out of the window, taking in everything from the plunging fjords of Norway and the snowy Alps of Switzerland, to the lush mountains of Scotland. If you want a front-row seat to all this breathtaking scenery, here are 7 of the most scenic train rides in Europe you can’t miss. All aboard!
1. Glacier Express, Switzerland
The famous Glacier Express is undoubtedly one of the most scenic train rides in Europe, taking you through the pristine Alpine landscapes between Zermatt and St. Moritz. You’ll start in the shadow of the great Matterhorn, then cover 300 kilometres of scenic bliss in around eight hours. With 91 tunnels and 291 bridges, the Glacier Express is an incredible feat of engineering.
Keep your eyes peeled for the most impressive stretch when the train moves through the Oberalp Pass at 2,044m above sea level, surrounded by snowy peaks and glittering ice sheets. It’s easy to soak up all the beauty, as most carriages have large panoramic windows and glass skylights for nearly 360-degree views. So how do you get there? You can experience the magic of the Glacier Express on Trafalgar’s Switzerland trips.
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2. Bergen Line, Norway
Possibly one of the most scenic train rides in Europe, Norway’s Bergen Line runs between Oslo and Bergen through some unforgettable landscapes. You’ll pass by rugged mountains, rivers, waterfalls and meadows on this epic 500-kilometre journey. It’s also the highest railway in northern Europe, reaching 1,222 metres above sea level at Finse.
One of the best parts is the famous Flåm Railway. This spectacular route between Flåm and Myrdal takes you through the Sognefjorden, the longest and deepest fjord in Europe. The railway also drops 867 metres in just 20 kilometres, making it the steepest line on the continent. Imagine picture-perfect lakes, thundering waterfalls, fairytale peaks and even hand-carved tunnels… Don’t forget to bring your camera for this one! You can experience the dreamy Flåm Railway and Bergen Line with Trafalgar on our Norway trips.
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3. West Highland Line, Scotland
Sit back and take in the enchanting Highland scenery on the West Highland Line. It runs for 264 kilometres or five hours from Glasgow to the port town of Mallaig in the Scottish Highlands. You’ll be amazed by the lush green countryside, rugged mountains, misty lochs, heather moors and craggy coastline of the west coast of Scotland. It’s said to be the most scenic train rides in Britain and there’s plenty of incredible sights along the way.
Harry Potter fans will love crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct where Harry and Ron came face to face with the Hogwart’s Express in the Flying Ford Anglia. Trainspotting film fans might also recognise the station at Corrour, which is also one of the highest train stations in Britain at 408 metres above sea level.
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4. Central Rhine Railway, Germany
One of the best ways to see the beautiful Rhine Valley is on the Central Rhine Railway. The line between Bingen and Koblenz offers up some mesmerising landscapes that have been plucked straight from a fairytale. In just 61 kilometres or 50 minutes, you’ll see picturesque villages, green hillside vineyards, and magical castles that inspired Walt Disney himself.
This line is even UNESCO-listed thanks to the 40 or more castles and fortresses dotted on the hillsides. You’ll also see the famous Loreley Rock in St. Goarshausen, where legend says that Loreley’s siren song once lured sailors to their death. This stunning train ride is short and sweet, but if you’d like something a little longer, try starting in Mainz and getting off in Cologne, for a scenic three-hour journey.
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5. Centovalli Railway, Switzerland & Italy
If you’re after dramatic views, you can’t miss the Centovalli Railway from Locarno, Switzerland, to Domodossola, Italy. This scenic train runs through the spectacular “Hundred Valleys”, the Centovalli, famed for its spellbinding spectacle of waterfalls, vineyards, valleys, chestnut groves, old villages and lush landscapes.
As you cross 83 bridges and 31 tunnels, don’t miss the Sorno viaduct (Itragna) and the gorge connecting Re and Intragna. You’ll even pass the glittering Lake Maggiore! This beautiful European train journey takes around two hours and it’s one of the best ways to see Switzerland and Italy.
6. Bernina Express, Switzerland
If you’re not taking the Glacier Express, then it’s got to be Switzerland’s Bernina Express, one of the most famous and scenic train trips in Europe. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the line takes you on a spectacular four-hour journey between Chur in Switzerland and Tirano in Italy.
You’ll pass 196 bridges and 55 tunnels as you go from the lakeside St. Mortiz up the Bernina Pass, where you’ll marvel at the Morteratsch Glacier and the peak of Piz Bernina. There are snowy mountains, alpine lakes and lush meadows in summer and the line along the Landwasser viaduct is especially breathtaking. If you’d like to experience the wonders of the Bernina Express, Trafalgar will get you there on our Switzerland trips.
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7. Semmering Bahn, Austria
This impressive railway is not only one of the most scenic train rides in Europe, but also one of the most extraordinary feats of engineering. It was built over the towering mountains of Austria between 1848 and 1854 and was the first single gauge track alpine railway in Europe.
Today, the UNESCO-listed line stretches over 41 kilometres, rolling from Gloggnitz to Mürzzuschlag, over the Semmering Pass. You’ll pass through 14 tunnels, 16 viaducts and over one hundred curved stone bridges as you wind your way through the wonderland of forests, cliffs and mountains.
What are your favourite scenic train travel experiences in Europe? Let us know in the comments below!