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5 of the Best Countries in Europe to Experience by Train

By Railbookers Monday, August 2, 2021 Read time: 9 minutes

Nothing quite compares to the experience of travelling throughout Europe by train. From the incredible views and the comfortable onboard amenities to the ability to get from city centre to city centre quickly and easily, many consider rail travel to be the best way to see Europe and beyond.

Electric tourist train and Eiger North face,Bernese Oberland,Switzerland

And while nearly every country in Europe offers great train journeys, this is our selection of those that offer the appealing combination of a well-connected network of trains in Europe, with the fast city to city lines, epic scenic trains, and the ability to see the best sights of the country by rail. Whether you’re planning a bucket-list rail journey or just looking for a weekend break, read on for our picks of the best countries in Europe to see by train!

1. Switzerland

Glacier-Express, Landwasser Viaduct

Tucked inside the small but incredibly beautiful country of Switzerland is one of the most efficient and scenic rail networks in the world. The idyllic terrain, dotted with wooden chalets, snowy peaks, dramatic waterfalls and mountain-fringed lakes, is completely accessible by train – at times spectacularly so. Take the famous Glacier Express route from Zermatt to St. Moritz over dozens of dramatic viaducts overlooking lush valleys. Glide through vibrant fields of wildflowers on the Golden Pass scenic train from Lucerne to Montreux. Or slowly climb up to the ‘top of Europe’ at the continent’s highest train station near the peak of the Jungfrau Mountain, marvelling at the winter wonderland that surrounds you. Any season in Switzerland presents scenic delights – it all depends on what you want to see and do.

The following Railbookers’ train holidays feature some of the most scenic Swiss train routes:

Switzerland’s Lakes and Mountains

Take the scenic trip of a lifetime through Switzerland on this exciting holiday by rail. Starting with overnight stays in Geneva and Montreux, continue the journey along the Golden Pass Line to Interlaken. Take a memorable trip to the highest railway station at the top of Jungfrau Mountain, before travelling through the Swiss Alps aboard the Glacier Express to Chur. Complete this incredible journey with a day trip across spectacular viaducts and past impressive glaciers on the Bernina Express to Tirano. 

Scenic Switzerland

This all-encompassing eight-night rail odyssey of Switzerland takes in the best this wonderful country has to offer. Start with a two-night stay in grand St Moritz from where you take a ride onboard the stunning Bernina Express train. Take the spectacular Glacier Express train to historical Zermatt for two nights, and enjoy the iconic Matterhorn Mountain via the Gornergrat Cog Railway. Travel to lakeside Lausanne for a relaxing night before continuing your journey along the Golden Pass line to the traditional Swiss town of Lucerne. Enjoy three nights here with day trips on the world’s steepest cogwheel train line on Mount Pilatus, and also to the highest railway station in Europe on the Jungfrau Railway. 

Peaks of Switzerland from Wengen

Experience some of the most stunning peaks of Switzerland firsthand on this scenic holiday by rail. Start with a ride on the Eurostar from London to Paris, and onward to Basel, where you’ll spend a night soaking up some of the culture of this inviting city. From Basel, travel to the picture-postcard mountain village of Wengen for five nights of relaxation and adventure in this idyllic alpine setting. Use your included Swiss Flexi-Pass for excursions to the summit of the Schilthorn, made famous in the 1969 James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and Jungfrau, the tallest peak in all of Europe. Cap off this Swiss holiday with a little French flair – take the train back to Paris for a special night in the ‘City of Light’ before your return to the UK.

2. Italy

It’s common knowledge that train travel in Italy is faster, more convenient, and more relaxing than flying or driving. The efficient and comfortable high-speed train network links nearly every major city, centre to centre, with no lengthy check-ins, and no baggage fees or weight limits. Rome to Florence takes just 1 hour and 32 minutes, Rome to Venice takes 3 hours and 45 minutes, Rome to Naples is just 1 hour and 10 minutes, and Rome to Milan is just 2 hours and 55 minutes. Before you know it, you’ve seen the country by train! Italy’s scenic regional trains connect to the city lines and round out the country’s excellent train network. From the iconic Bernina Express, which traverses southern Switzerland into Northern Italy in spectacular fashion, to the regional lines running along the colourful cliffs and the crystal clear waters of the Amalfi Coast, local, scenic trains provide a wonderful glimpse into the true culture and flavour of the country and its people.

These popular Railbookers train journeys feature some of the best train travel in Italy:

Grand Venice, Florence and Rome

Discover the charms and landmarks of three Italian gems on one scenic holiday along the rails. Explore the cities to their fullest with sightseeing tours and skip-the-line passes all included. Sail down the canals of Venice with a gondola ride, unearth artistic masterpieces in Florence and gaze in awe at the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling in Rome. Enjoy high-speed rail journeys connecting the fascinating cities. This is one Italian adventure you won’t want to miss!

The Bernina Express and Venice Simplon-Orient-Express to Venice

This incredible train holiday to Europe combines two iconic train experiences: the Bernina Express and the Venice Simplon-Orient Express en route to magical Venice, Italy! We can’t think of a better way to explore these regions of Europe. Discover what it’s like to travel in luxury onboard the Venice Simplon-Orient Express from your private compartment and while taking in the incredible views. In Venice, explore the picturesque canals and history of one of the world’s most visited destinations. Then, take the Bernina Express through the Swiss Alps to the lakeside resort town of St. Moritz for a relaxing two-night stay.

Amalfi Coast via the Alps

Travel in style on this luxurious holiday to the beautiful Amalfi Coast via the fascinating cities of Geneva and Florence. Stay for four nights in spectacular Sorrento, overlooking the Mediterranean. Shop for Italian gifts in the elegant boutiques, wander through orange and lemon groves and take a boat trip to the dramatic, prehistoric caves dotting the coastline in one of Europe’s most beautiful regions.

3. Scotland

Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland

With it’s wild, vibrant and majestic scenery combined with rich history and tradition, Scotland is an incredible destination at any time of the year. Travel by train and you’ll enjoy enchanting landscapes right from your seat. From overnight train adventures to luxury sleeper experiences and from cities to wide-open spaces, there really is no better way to experience this corner of the world than by train.

Here are some of our favourite Scottish trips:

Grand Tour of Scotland

Experience Scotland in all it’s glory and visit it’s most iconic landscapes and attractions on this 10-day train journey. This spectacular itinerary features unforgettable experiences in Inverness, Isle of Skye, Glasgow, Fort William and Edinburgh. Explore the gateway to the Scottish Highlands in Inverness, tour the magical Isle of Skye and Eilean Donan Castle and travel along the West Highland line between Fort William and Mallaig. Take a trip to Stirling Castle and Loch Lomond as well as Edinburgh Castle and enjoy the ever-changing scenery as you travel from city to city.

Grand Inverness and the Highlands via the Caledonian Sleeper

Inverness is full of interesting locations, great museums and Highland charm. Explore all the town has to offer. Head into the Highlands to explore with visits to Glen Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness. Head over to the fabled Isle of Skye for its unforgettable mountainous landscapes. Welcome to the Scottish Highlands!

Belmond Royal Scotsman Highland Journey

Enjoy faultless service and gourmet dining as you travel aboard the Royal Scotsman into the majestic scenery of the Scottish Highlands. Explore a 13th-century castle at the Rothiemurchus Estate, discover the verdant scenery and fascinating past of the Culloden Battlefields, then enjoy a whiskey tasting session at the famous Strathisla distillery. Relax in the opulent surroundings of the Royal Scotsman as the breathtaking Scottish landscapes roll past your window on the journey of a lifetime.

4. France

bridge in france

If you’re planning a trip to France and want a real experience of the country, the train is definitely the way to go. Train travel between France’s iconic towns and cities is at once comfortable, scenic, romantic and fast! The country’s world-famous TGV travels at up to 199 mph, from city centre to city centre, in quiet, relaxed comfort. From Paris, get to most of the country’s most popular cities in under three hours – including Lyon in just under 2 hours, Bordeaux in just over two hours, and Lille in just an hour!

Railbookers’ exciting train holidays in France include:

Avignon and Nice

Enjoy this romantic holiday to the beautiful French cities of Avignon and Nice! Famous for the stunning Palace of the Popes, Avignon is a city brimming with culture and wonderful gastronomy. Spend three days exploring the sights of the city before journeying by rail from Avignon along the beautiful French Riviera before arriving into Nice. Spend three relaxing days discovering Nice – stroll along the Promenade des Anglais, stretching elegantly along the Mediterranean coastline, visit the pretty markets and dine on wonderful seafood.

Bordeaux City Break

Bordeaux is so much more than just the wine capital of the world – over the past two decades, the city has transformed itself into an exciting hub of important gastronomy, restored neoclassical and new modern architecture, and dynamic festivals and events. Get there in just a few hours on this exciting city break, and spend two days lavishing yourself with beautiful scenery, terrific sightseeing, exceptional dining, and of course, all the fine wine you care to drink!

Cote D’Azur: Nice and Cannes

Explore the glamorous Côte d’Azur in the south of France with its glittering Mediterranean coastline. From beaches to boutiques, and the exclusive Principality of Monaco, the French Riviera is the perfect holiday destination. Spend three nights in Nice and three nights in Cannes, with train travel between the cities, and a day trip to Monaco.

5. Germany

Rail travel in Germany is every bit as fast and efficient as you would expect, but what you may not expect are the jaw-dropping views on the many scenic routes that wind throughout the country. Think dense forests, snow-covered mountains, dramatic castles and sparkling lakes. One such train ride is also the shortest in Germany – at only 55 minutes, the journey along the Rhine River from Koblenz to Mainz offers riders fairy-tale castles and lush vineyards along the beautiful river’s slopes. It’s just a taste of the type of memorable train journey Germany is known for.

Consider the following train escapes when planning your next holiday to Germany:

Grand Berlin, Prague, Vienna and Budapest

Discover four Imperial capital cities in one fantastic holiday by train. Travel through Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria and Hungary by high-speed train, taking in wonderful views while en route. With city passes, hop-on, hop-off tours, skip the line passes and exciting extras all included, you’ll be able to get the most out of your stay in these wonderful destinations.

Munich, Vienna and Prague

Explore Munich, Vienna and Prague on this six-night vacation by rail. Enjoy two nights in the Bavarian capital of Munich before taking the train to Vienna and discovering the city’s wealth of museums, imperial palaces and baroque architecture. Then journey to Prague for spectacular sightseeing in one of the most romantic cities in the world.

Cologne, Munich and Berlin

Enjoy a six-night holiday by rail visiting three exciting German cities. Starting with an overnight stay in Cologne, enjoy a wander around the Old Town and marvel at the Dom before moving on to the capital of Bavaria, Munich. Take in the Gothic architecture of this picturesque town and sample some local beers at a typical Bavarian tavern. Finally, ride the rails to Berlin! Discover the fascinating history of the Berlin Wall and explore the diverse range of shops and restaurants on offer in this remarkable city.

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