Full Steam Ahead: How Europe is Reigniting its Love Affair with Train Travel
Full Steam Ahead: How Europe is Reigniting its Love Affair with Train Travel - The Renaissance of Rail
After decades of decline, rail travel in Europe is experiencing a true renaissance. High-speed trains now whisk travelers between major cities in hours instead of days, while overnight trains are making a comeback for those who want to maximize time exploring instead of traveling. Sophisticated rail networks are enticing more people to leave their cars behind and reconnect with the romance of the rails.
According to industry reports, international high-speed rail traffic in Europe increased a whopping 17.9% in 2021 over pre-pandemic levels. Countries like Spain and France now boast over 2,000 miles of high-speed track enabling trains to reach speeds over 185 mph. One can get from Paris to Marseille in just 3 hours or Barcelona to Madrid in under 3 hours. The efficiency and environmentally friendly nature of high-speed rail has travelers flocking back.
Not to be forgotten, overnight sleeper trains are also having a revival. Austria, Switzerland, Sweden and other countries have invested in new rolling stock with private cabins, ensuite bathrooms and other upscale amenities. Routes connect major cities like Vienna, Zurich and Stockholm as well as smaller destinations. Travelers can enjoy evening drinks in the lounge car before retiring to their bunks as the train rolls through Alpine scenery and remote valleys under a blanket of stars. Waking up refreshed at the destination is part of the magic.
Onboard, travelers are greeted with sleek new interiors featuring ambient lighting, panoramic windows, comfortable reclining seats, onboard wifi and entertainment systems. Many trains now have full service dining cars where meals rival what's served in the best restaurants. The golden age of rail travel has returned in an updated form.
Stations themselves are being revamped into architecturally stunning transit hubs. Original Victorian ironwork mingles with modern accents of glass and steel. Vibrant shopping arcades and food halls make even layovers enjoyable. Entertainment and business lounges provide an oasis between connections.
For many, crossing Europe by train is about reliving iconic rail journeys like the Glacier Express across the Swiss Alps or the Flåm Railway Descending to Norwegian fjords. Traversing the Semmering Pass on Austria's first mountain railway or racing along Spain's rocky Costa Verde evoke the romance of rail travel. Instagram worthy views abound.