Take in the Views: 7 of Europe’s Most Picturesque Train Journeys
Take in the Views: 7 of Europe's Most Picturesque Train Journeys - Wind Through the Alps on the Glacier Express
The Glacier Express winds its way through the dramatic Alpine landscape, offering passengers breathtaking views of snow-capped peaks, quaint villages, and lush green valleys. This famous train journey connects two major mountain resorts – Zermatt and St. Moritz – and crosses 291 bridges and passes through 91 tunnels along its 7.5 hour route.
The panoramic windows on the Glacier Express allow you to fully immerse yourself in the majestic scenery. As the train slowly climbs through the mountains, you’ll get a unique perspective on the natural beauty of the Alps. The Glacier Express is specially designed to maximize sightseeing, with large windows, skylights, and open-air observation cars.
One of the highlights of the trip is traversing the Landwasser Viaduct, a stone arch bridge that rises 65 meters above a gorge. This is one of Switzerland’s most photographed landmarks, especially when the Glacier Express snakes across it. The geometric lines of the viaduct contrast beautifully with the wild, untamed landscape around it.
The Albula Line, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is another scenic stretch as the train passes through a valley dotted with farms and villages. Along the way, the train stops in charming mountain towns like Andermatt, Chur, and Brig, giving you a taste of traditional Swiss life. You can step off and explore these towns during the quick stops.
For many travelers, riding the Glacier Express is a bucket list experience. The views are so captivating that it’s easy to spend the entire 7.5 hour journey glued to the windows. As one passenger recounted, “It was like looking at a slide show of the most beautiful mountains I’ve ever seen.” Others have described it as the closest you can get to flying without leaving the ground.
What else is in this post?
- Take in the Views: 7 of Europe's Most Picturesque Train Journeys - Wind Through the Alps on the Glacier Express
- Take in the Views: 7 of Europe's Most Picturesque Train Journeys - Marvel at the Fjords on the Bergen Railway
- Take in the Views: 7 of Europe's Most Picturesque Train Journeys - Watch the Mediterranean Glide By on the Côte d’Azur Line
- Take in the Views: 7 of Europe's Most Picturesque Train Journeys - Cross Over Deep Gorges on the Transcantábrico
- Take in the Views: 7 of Europe's Most Picturesque Train Journeys - See Fairytale Castles on the Rhine Valley Line
- Take in the Views: 7 of Europe's Most Picturesque Train Journeys - Ride Alongside the Adriatic on the Opatija-Lovran Line
- Take in the Views: 7 of Europe's Most Picturesque Train Journeys - Climb Through the Carpathians on the Oșorhei Express
- Take in the Views: 7 of Europe's Most Picturesque Train Journeys - Journey Back in Time on the West Highland Line
Take in the Views: 7 of Europe's Most Picturesque Train Journeys - Marvel at the Fjords on the Bergen Railway
Gliding past deep blue fjords and cascading waterfalls, the Bergen Railway offers a fairytale journey through some of Norway's most magnificent scenery. This historic rail line connects Norway's capital, Oslo, to its second largest city, Bergen, on the country's scenic west coast. Along the way, it traverses the Hardangervidda plateau and winds down to the fjord-carved coastline.
The seven-hour ride is rightly considered one of Europe's most scenic train trips. From your seat, you'll get a front-row view of Norway's natural wonders, like the thundering Vøringsfossen waterfall and the stunning Hardangerfjord - Norway's third longest and second deepest fjord. Peer out the window as mountains reflected in glassy waters slide by.
The train hugs cliffs and passes just feet from roaring rivers, bringing you intimately close to the landscape. The novelty of traveling at water level, with waves lapping below, makes standard views feel suddenly spectacular. Onboard guides provide commentary, enhancing the experience by pointing out highlights and adding context.
The Bergen Railway opened in 1909 and remains incredibly popular today. For many visitors, riding the rails is a highlight of any Norwegian vacation. As one passenger described, "It was like having a scenic cruise on land!" Others have marveled at how the train enables you to appreciate the scale of the epic landscape in a way roads can't. The ever-changing vistas unfold gradually, giving you time to soak it all in.
Take in the Views: 7 of Europe's Most Picturesque Train Journeys - Watch the Mediterranean Glide By on the Côte d’Azur Line
Gliding along the glittering Côte d’Azur in southern France, the railway line from Marseille to Ventimiglia offers a blissful beachside journey. Hugging the coastline for most of its 280 kilometer route, the train rumbles past idyllic seaside villages, luxurious mega-yachts bobbing in azure waters, and craggy cliffs plunging into the surf.
Pack a picnic, roll down the windows, and let the sights, sounds, and scents of the French Riviera wash over you during this scenic 4 hour trip. As the train winds along the edge of the Mediterranean Sea, you’ll get unobstructed 180-degree views of bright turquoise waters meeting sandy shores.
One of the most breathtaking stretches is between Nice and Monaco, where the tracks are just steps from the sea. Passing rocky coves and secluded beaches dotted with colorful umbrellas, you’ll have front row seats to the ocean vistas. Further along, marvel at the engineering feat of traversing the mountains via a cliff-clinging rail line and pitch-black tunnels burrowed right through the rocks.
After departing the port city of Marseille, the first major stop is Cassis - the perfect place to channel your inner Riviera chic. Wander the harbor sprinkled with pastel-hued buildings before reboarding for Toulon, home to a French naval base.
Continue on to the posh peninsula of Saint-Tropez, its sheltered bay filled with luxury yachts. Soak up the glamorous atmosphere that still lingers from the town’s days as an artist colony and celebrity haunt. Don’t miss strolling the lively port and people watching from a sidewalk cafe.
Soon you’ll pull into Nice, the capital of the French Riviera, where you can soak up the sun on the iconic Promenade des Anglais or get lost in the bustling Old Town. Then it’s onward to Monaco, the second smallest country in the world, home to the lavish Monte Carlo casino and Formula 1 street circuit.
Take in the Views: 7 of Europe's Most Picturesque Train Journeys - Cross Over Deep Gorges on the Transcantábrico
The Transcantábrico clings to the edge of Spain, winding through ancient hills and crossing deep, dramatic gorges on its journey across the stunning Cantabrian Mountains. This legendary train link from Santiago de Compostela to San Sebastian offers some of Spain’s most breathtaking scenery, taking you through untouched wilderness and charming villages.
Peer out the window as the train slowly rumbles across century-old viaducts arched high over river valleys and canyons. You’ll get unique views down into the depths of the lush green gorges from your perch on the tracks. The train passes through 31 tunnels and over 67 bridges, including the curved Deiragon Bridge stretching 180 meters across a gorge.
One of the most thrilling points is the tall bridge between Campo de Caso and Puente de los Fierros. As the train inches across the bridge, you’ll see the scarred rock walls of the gorge rising high on either side. Look down through metal grate floors straight to the river churning below for an adrenaline rush.
The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Ruta Jacobea also affords close-up views of mountain roads improbably carved into the cliffs. See the jagged geography that isolated this region for so long. Quieter country roads run parallel, offering a neat contrast between old and new infrastructure.
Through the windows, watch everyday life unfold inside tiny mountain villages nearly forgotten by time. La Robla, Pola de Lena, and Arriondas give a taste of traditional rural life, with farmers herding cows down stone lanes unchanged for generations.
The varied mountain scenery unfurls gradually, from green valleys to exposed peaks. In the Picos de Europa National Park, the tracks lead you through quintessential Spanish countryside - all rolling hills, forests, and meadows dotted with hamlets.
Take in the Views: 7 of Europe's Most Picturesque Train Journeys - See Fairytale Castles on the Rhine Valley Line
Gliding along the Rhine River, it’s easy to feel like you’ve been transported into the pages of a storybook. This fabled waterway winds past medieval castles, quaint villages with half-timbered houses, and vineyards clinging to steep hillsides. Take it all in from the comfort of your seat on the Rhine Valley train line.
As the train trundles along the Middle Rhine Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll get postcard views of around 40 castles and fortress ruins. Rising dramatically from vineyard-blanketed banks and craggy cliffs, these crumbling bastions of power seem frozen in time.
Facing the river enabled monitoring of river trade while using the cliffs for natural defense. Gaze up at the crenelated towers and imagine knights peering out from arrow slits over the river. The sieges and conquests that played out here shaped much of European history.
Burg Rheinfels’ imposing silhouette comes into view first, among the best preserved with inner walls and bastions still standing. Next, you’ll spot the sprawling Marksburg Castle, still privately owned by the same family for over 700 years. And no castle tour is complete without Schloss Stolzenfels, an early 19th-century rebuild of a 13th-century original.
Then comes the ultimate fairytale facade - Schloss Stolzenfels. Its towers, turrets, and delicate crenelations seem designed by Disney. This is where Prussian royalty held dazzling parties with famous composers and artists. Stand on the deck where late night fireworks lit up the river.
The dreamy towns along the route enhance the fairy-tale vibe. Half-timbered houses in pastel hues line cobbled lanes that weave downhill to the shores. Admire Kaub’s charming wine taverns and Rüdesheim’s crooked 13th-century alley, the Drosselgasse. Grab an apple wine in one of Boppard’s cozy cafes near the grassy riverfront.
This isn’t just a lazy pleasure cruise – it’s a history lesson unfolding in real life. Onboard guides narrate the highlights and provide context that makes the scenery even more vivid. Disembark to explore the sites up close during pauses along the way. Standing on cobblestone streets 500 years old evokes a sense of wonder.
Take in the Views: 7 of Europe's Most Picturesque Train Journeys - Ride Alongside the Adriatic on the Opatija-Lovran Line
Gliding along the dazzling blue Adriatic Sea, the coastal railway between Opatija and Lovran offers a blissful journey along one of Croatia’s most beautiful stretches of shoreline. This short 30-minute trip packs in striking seascapes around every bend. With the train hugging the cliffs just steps from the sea, you’ll get unobstructed views of sparkling turquoise waters lapping at rocky beaches and secluded coves.
The Opatija Riviera is known as Croatia’s answer to the French Riviera, and riding this scenic rail line makes it easy to see why. As the train rolls slowly along the coast, you’ll pass stylish seaside villages lined with pastel-hued villas and elaborate turn-of-the-century hotels. Look down over steep drops to pocket beaches bordered by sunbathers and bobbing boats. Up on the cliffs stand exotic botanical gardens exploding with tropical flora rarely seen in Europe.
One highlight is traversing the Sv. Jakova Peninsula, where the train passes through two short tunnels burrowed right through the neck of the peninsula. Peer out the windows on either side for dramatically different vistas showcasing the diversity of the coastline. To one side, a craggy coast dotted with hidden coves unfolds while a built-up bayfront resort sparkles on the other.
Further along, the beautiful Učka Tunnel takes you right through Mount Učka, a limestone ridge soaring above the Kvarner Gulf. At just over three miles long, this feat of engineering enables uninterrupted coastal views by burrowing through the mountain instead of rounding it. Unique Perspex windows inside the tunnel allow natural light to stream in so you don’t miss the striking scenery.
The string of towns along the route each have their own unique charm and are worth hopping off to explore. Opatija is the most upscale, known for its grand Austrian-era hotels and sprawling parks overlooking the sea. Lovran is smaller and more low-key, with a pretty cobblestone center and unspoiled coastal ambiance. Mošćenička Draga falls right in the middle, lined with waterfront cafes perfect for whiling away an afternoon.
Take in the Views: 7 of Europe's Most Picturesque Train Journeys - Climb Through the Carpathians on the Oșorhei Express
Winding through the forested Carpathian Mountains, the Oșorhei Express offers a magical journey into the fairy tale landscapes of rural Romania. This historic narrow gauge railway rolls through untouched wilderness and remote villages lost in time, affording rare glimpses of traditional life. For many travelers, riding the Oșorhei Express is a highlight of visiting Romania.
As the old-fashioned train rambles slowly through the hills, you’ll feel transported back to an earlier era. Gaze out the windows at rolling green meadows dotted with haystacks and grazing horses, just as they were a hundred years ago. Pass thick pine forests and isolated farmsteads where laundry hangs drying in the yard. The hypnotic click-clack of the tracks and occasional lonesome train whistle enhance the time travel effect.
One of the most scenic stretches follows the winding Sărata River, where verdant slopes plunge dramatically to the valley floor. The train snakes along an impossible series of switchbacks blasted right out of the cliffs. Peer down the rocky ledges to the river sparkling hundreds of feet below for an adrenaline rush.
The area’s isolation has helped preserve its traditional culture and Roma heritage, offering lucky riders authentic glimpses of a vanishing way of life. As the train rumbles slowly through ramshackle villages, witness residents in colorful folk costumes farming and herding sheep as they have for generations. Smile and wave at local children excitedly chasing alongside the tracks.
While scenic trains often feel touristy, the Oșorhei Express offers a much more genuine experience by providing access to communities well off the beaten path. Interacting with local passengers provides wonderful cultural insight. Expect to see elders dressed in handmade clothing speaking Romani as they ride to sell produce at the market. You may even be treated to live music if you’re lucky.
The 86-kilometer journey from downtown Oșorhei to small rural stations takes about five hours each way. For the full experience, opt to stay overnight in the countryside. The priest of Izvoare village converted an old railway cottage into a charming guesthouse. Fall asleep to the sounds of the river flowing below and wake to homegrown breakfasts and views of the lush valley.
Take in the Views: 7 of Europe's Most Picturesque Train Journeys - Journey Back in Time on the West Highland Line
Prepare to step back in time aboard the West Highland Line, which chugs past moody mountains and shaggy Highland cows grazing misty glens on its spectacular journey between Glasgow and the port of Mallaig. This remote route - deemed one of the world's greatest railway journeys - feels like a passage into the past, unchanged since its opening over a century ago.
As the train rolls out of Glasgow, urban sprawl quickly yields to lush green valleys and craggy peaks. Gaze through big picture windows at the wilderness unfolding outside. Soon the train reaches Rannoch Moor, an otherworldly expanse of heather-covered hills stretching as far as the eye can see. Traversing this desolate 50 square miles of bogland feels properly remote.
The most breathtaking stretch follows the shores of Loch Eil, Loch Ailort, and Loch Scavaig, treating passengers to unbroken views of epic lochs. Sheer mountains rise straight from the steely water while seals sun themselves on rocky beaches far below the tracks.
At charming Glenfinnan station, pop culture fanatics will thrill to see the viaduct immortalized onscreen when the Hogwarts Express crossed it in Harry Potter. This graceful 21-arch curve is equally photogenic in real life, especially with a scarlet Jacobite steam train chugging by.
The route's time capsule charm springs not just from the scenery, but from the communities it links. At lonely stops like Corrour - Britain's highest and most remote station - hardy locals step aboard, heading to market just as their ancestors did. Sheep and shaggy Highland cattle grazing uncommon sights like tranquil lochs and wandering deer enhance the magical atmosphere.
One passenger recalled, "I felt like I was riding the rails through a past century. I'll never forget sipping tea from a flask as misty mountains rolled past the window." Others report feeling mesmerized for hours by the ever-changing, yet eternally unspoiled vistas. Still more find themselves strangely emotional, overcome by the raw and humbling beauty.