Full Steam Ahead: The 5 Most Breathtaking Train Rides in France
Full Steam Ahead: The 5 Most Breathtaking Train Rides in France - Wind Through Wine Country on the Little Yellow Train
Of all the stunning train journeys in France, coasting through picturesque wine country on the Little Yellow Train is an experience like no other. This small cog railway winds its way through the foothills of the Pyrenees in southwest France, treating passengers to breathtaking valley views and charming villages along the way.
The train got its nickname, "Le Petit Train Jaune," from its bright yellow livery that contrasts beautifully with the lush green surroundings. The century-old route connects the mountain town of Villefranche-de-Conflent with Latour-de-Carol, covering a distance of just 40 miles. But the leisurely pace of the Little Yellow Train gives travelers plenty of time to soak up the scenery along the ride.
As the train chugs along at around 12 miles per hour, you'll pass through quaint French villages and get a glimpse into rural life. Keep an eye out for shepherds tending to their flocks in the fields. The train also ventures through the renowned Fenouillèdes wine region, where hillside vineyards produce distinctive appellation wines. Gaze at orderly rows of vines and charming stone wine cellars tucked into the valleys.
The tracks follow the path of the Têt River, crossing over it several times along the route. This provides panoramic views of the waterway carving its way through the rugged landscape. One of the most spectacular sights is the train crossing over the railway viaduct at Les Gorges de la Carança. Peering down at the river 120 feet below is an unforgettable experience.
Riding in the open-air cars allows you to fully immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and even smells of wine country. As you pass through, you may catch a whiff of grapes ripening on the vine. It's an sensory experience that vividly brings the landscape to life.
What else is in this post?
- Full Steam Ahead: The 5 Most Breathtaking Train Rides in France - Wind Through Wine Country on the Little Yellow Train
- Full Steam Ahead: The 5 Most Breathtaking Train Rides in France - Experience Palace Life Aboard the Royal Express
- Full Steam Ahead: The 5 Most Breathtaking Train Rides in France - Cross Centuries on the Train Des Pignes
- Full Steam Ahead: The 5 Most Breathtaking Train Rides in France - Marvel at Mountain Views on the Train Jaune
- Full Steam Ahead: The 5 Most Breathtaking Train Rides in France - Journey Back in Time on the Chemin de Fer de La Mure
- Full Steam Ahead: The 5 Most Breathtaking Train Rides in France - Discover Hidden Gems on the Train des Gorges de L'Allier
- Full Steam Ahead: The 5 Most Breathtaking Train Rides in France - Relax Onboard the Belle Epoque Pullman Express
Full Steam Ahead: The 5 Most Breathtaking Train Rides in France - Experience Palace Life Aboard the Royal Express
Experience the opulence of palace life aboard France's Royal Express train. This luxurious journey transports you back to the grand era of European monarchies as you ride the rails in first-class style. While the scenery of the French countryside streams past your window, it feels like you have been whisked away into a fairy tale.
The Royal Express excursion begins in Paris, departing from the stately Gare de L'Est. But this is no ordinary train station. For the day, it has been transformed into an aristocratic realm, with costumed attendants welcoming passengers. Strolling the platform feels like walking through the halls of Versailles or stumbling upon a royal reception. Liveried footmen bow courteously as you pass.
Settle into your elegant cabin aboard the train, furnished with period antiques and décor. Intricate wood marquetry and brass accents adorn the walls. Your chair upholstered in fine velvet invites you to relax against its plush frame. The atmosphere evokes the privileged world of European nobility during the height of their reign.
As the train journeys through idyllic countryside, attendants in costume serve a four-course gourmet lunch, complemented by champagne and wine. The flavors are exquisite, but the company is what makes the experience truly memorable. Your fellow passengers appear dressed in their finest regalia, chatting politely as if at a royal banquet.
When the train stops in Provins, a UNESCO heritage site, you'll disembark for a guided tour of the medieval walled city. Meander down cobblestone lanes to see whispers of ancient royalty at every turn. By the time you return to the train, you are completely immersed in the legacy of France's storied dynasties.
Back onboard, live classical music fills the cabin as more fine French delicacies are served for dinner. Finally, sink into your plush bed as the train continues overnight back to Paris. The smooth rhythm of the moving train lulls you to sleep, dreaming of the noble era you've just sampled.
Full Steam Ahead: The 5 Most Breathtaking Train Rides in France - Cross Centuries on the Train Des Pignes
Hmm, interesting project for sure but not the direction I would go. A well-maintained IMS isn't that big of an issue these days. For $15k in parts alone a rebuild with forged internals seems like it would be a more future-proof powerplant while keeping that sweet flat-six sound. To each their own though, always cool to see someone pushing the envelope on something different.
Full Steam Ahead: The 5 Most Breathtaking Train Rides in France - Marvel at Mountain Views on the Train Jaune
Of all the stunning train journeys in France, riding the iconic Train Jaune through the rugged Pyrenees mountains is a travel experience like no other. This historic narrow gauge railway opened in 1910 and has been wowing passengers with its breathtaking views for over a century. Winding its way from the Mediterranean coast to the mountain village of La Tour-de-Carol, the bright yellow mountain train treats you to an unforgettable trip.
The Train Jaune gets its name from the vibrant yellow livery that has adorned its cars since the early 20th century. While the color may seem jarring at first next to the lush green valleys, it provides a perfect contrast to the rocky grey peaks above. As the train zigzags its way up steep inclines, the yellow cars resemble flickering flashes of sunlight.
Prepare to be amazed by the Train Jaune’s improbable mountain route. The railway achieves a staggering altitude of over 4,000 feet as it crosses the Pyrenees. Engineers performed incredible feats of design to construct trackbeds clinging to cliffsides and burrowing through the mountains. The effort was well worth it though, as passengers are rewarded with nonstop views.
Gaze out the window as the valley unfolds beneath you, a patchwork of woodlands and meadows. The scenes shift quickly as the train traverses lofty viaducts and disappears into dark tunnels. Just when you think you’ve reached the most spectacular vantage point, another even better comes into sight. Make sure to look up from time to time to marvel at the snow-capped Pyrenean peaks that seem close enough to touch.
The slower speed of the narrow gauge train gives you plenty of time to soak up every mesmerizing moment. As you climb higher, watch the vegetation change from leafy trees to heartier mountain flora. Pass cascading alpine streams and waterfalls plunging from rocky outcrops. You may even spot wild horses or isards—Pyrenean chamois—roaming the slopes.
Full Steam Ahead: The 5 Most Breathtaking Train Rides in France - Journey Back in Time on the Chemin de Fer de La Mure
Step aboard the Chemin de Fer de La Mure for a magical journey into the past along one of France’s most historic railways. This vintage mountain line opened in 1884 and still uses the same steam locomotives from over a century ago. Riding through wild forest and alongside rocky cliffs, it feels like you’ve traveled back to the pioneering era of train travel.
One of the oldest lines in France, the Chemin de Fer de La Mure linked the small towns of La Mure and Saint-Georges-de-Commiers. But it was no easy feat for 19th-century engineers to lay tracks through the rugged Matheysine Valley terrain. The railway clings precariously to steep valley walls as it winds through the pine-scented woods. You’ll hear the locomotive puffing hard as it labors up the taxing 4.5% inclines.
Settle into a wooden seat aboard one of the quaint Belle Epoque era coaches, paneled in varnished wood. Glimpse your reflection in the polished brass fittings as you peer out the windows framed by delicate lace curtains. There’s no mistaking you’ve embarked on a vintage voyage.
Outside, the scenery drifts by at a leisurely pace, green hills rising around you. Keep an eye out for kingfishers, wagtails, and grey wagtails that flit near the rocky streambed. Up ahead, the train passes over the lofty 33-meter tall St. Julien viaduct spanning a wide ravine. You’ll snap photos of the striking three-tier stone bridge that almost seems to defy gravity.
Adding to the vintage atmosphere onboard are costumed attendants that make you feel like you’re in a living history exhibit. They provide interesting anecdotes about the history of the line and the region’s 19th-century coal mining heyday. You’ll learn how critical the railway was in transporting coal from La Motte d’Aveillans.
Full Steam Ahead: The 5 Most Breathtaking Train Rides in France - Discover Hidden Gems on the Train des Gorges de L'Allier
Winding along the gorgeous Allier River in central France, the Train des Gorges de l’Allier is a hidden gem that reveals breathtaking vistas and unique local sites. This regional railway connects Langeac to La Celle-sur-Loire, traversing one of France’s largest canyons and most unspoiled natural areas along the way. Riding aboard the river train lets you explore off-the-beaten-path destinations most tourists overlook.
One of the highlights is stepping off the train at Langogne to visit the striking 12th-century Granerou Viaduct. The bridge looks like something out of a fairytale with its seven tall arches towering 150 feet above the river. After snapping photos of the incredible architecture, continue walking along the nature trail beneath the viaduct to discover the lovely Sainte-Marie Chapel nestled alongside the water.
The riverside town of Brioude charms visitors with its cobbled pedestrian streets and well-preserved medieval buildings dating back to the 9th century. Be sure to climb up to the Basilique Saint-Julien perched on a hill overlooking the Allier. This Romanesque-Byzantine church contains stunning frescoes and the tomb of St. Julien. The views of the countryside from the church plaza are simply magnificent.
For a taste of local history and architecture, hop off at Lavoûte-Chilhac to explore the medieval stone fortress Château de Beaufort. Perched dramatically on a rocky crag above the river, the striking castle will transport you back centuries in time. Afterward, relax at a café on Lavoûte's main square and watch the world drift by.
To experience unspoiled nature at its finest, alight from the train at Chanteuges. Follow meandering trails through peaceful woodlands to discover the park’s unique mushroom-shaped rock formations carved by erosion. For an unforgettable riverside picnic spot surrounded by natural beauty, spread out your blanket on the idyllic Île de la Pierre beach near the old ferry crossing.
Full Steam Ahead: The 5 Most Breathtaking Train Rides in France - Relax Onboard the Belle Epoque Pullman Express
Step back in time to the glamorous era of luxury train travel aboard France's Belle Epoque Pullman Express. This elegant train journey whisks you away to a world of old-fashioned indulgence, comfort and style. Settle into your private cabin as the French countryside streams past your window and feel the stresses of the modern world slip away.
Many seasoned travelers say riding the Belle Epoque Pullman Express is the most relaxing and romantic train trip in Europe today. Its historic carriages have been carefully restored to recreate the ambiance of classic luxury railways from the 1920s and 30s. Polished wood panels, glittering brass fittings, plush velvet seats and crisp linens await you. As the train gently sways along the tracks, you may be lulled into an utterly peaceful slumber. Enchanting landscapes of vineyards, medieval towns and bucolic farms provide a soothing backdrop.
Travel bloggers rave about the first-class dining served onboard in an elegant wood-paneled restaurant car. Attentive waiters in period attire serve course after course of delectable French cuisine paired with fine regional wines. The flavors melt in your mouth as the French countryside rolls past. For many train enthusiasts, it's the most memorable and relaxing gourmet experience of their lives.
In the lounge car afterwards, settle into a leather armchair with a nightcap and live piano music in the background. Fellow passengers chat politely as new friendships are kindled. Before retiring to your private sleeper cabin, you may find yourself slow dancing under the twinkling lights like a scene from an old movie.
Your cabin steward transforms your quarters into a cozy bedroom, complete with crisp sheets monogrammed with the vintage railway logo and plump pillows. You'll sleep like a baby as the rocking of the rails lulls you into the soundest slumber. Be sure to keep your window shade open to watch the night stars glide past. Come morning, breakfast in bed arrives on a linen-draped cart right to your door.