Riding the Rails: 10 Gorgeous Train Trips That Will Make You Fall in Love with Europe
Riding the Rails: 10 Gorgeous Train Trips That Will Make You Fall in Love with Europe - The Bernina Express: Alpine Vistas in Switzerland and Italy
Winding through the dramatic mountainscapes of the Swiss Alps and Northern Italy, the Bernina Express offers travelers panoramic views of glaciers, forests, and quaint villages. This train journey is widely regarded as one of the most spectacular in Europe.
The route connects Chur, Switzerland with Tirano, Italy. It traverses lofty viaducts, circles mountain lakes, and passes through the Bernina Pass at 7,391 feet – the highest point on the line. With its slow speed and frequent photo stops, the Bernina Express is perfect for admiring the pristine Alpine scenery.
The four-hour journey aboard the bright red train cars is filled with jaw-dropping moments. After leaving Chur, the train stops at posh St. Moritz. Passengers can glimpse Lake Como from the town of Tirano before concluding their adventure in picturesque Poschiavo.
Travel bloggers rave about this rail trip. One describes it as "gliding through some of the most dramatic scenery the Alps have to offer." Another writes, "It was one of the most incredible train journeys I've ever been on. The views literally took my breath away."
A key highlight is crossing the iconic Landwasser Viaduct, a stone arch bridge that towers nearly 150 feet above a gorge. This is one of Switzerland's most photographed landmarks. The train slows to a crawl, allowing riders to take in the panoramas from the viaduct's perspective.
The Albula Tunnel is another feat of engineering, spiraling through the mountainside for nearly three miles. Emerge from the darkness to be greeted by shimmering Alpine lakes and slopes dotted with wildflowers.
While appreciating the vistas, don't forget to sample local cuisine! Stop at Alp Grüm for rösti with sausage and cheese. In Poschiavo, sip Merlot delle Alpi, a fruity red wine made from grapes grown on sunny terraces. Indulge in rich chocolate from an artisanal shop.
Ride in the vintage panoramic cars to fully experience the Bernina Express. Their oversized windows provide unobstructed views from all seats. Or upgrade to Excellence Class for extra legroom, complimentary snacks, and reserved seating.
Travel between May and October for the most pleasant weather. Beat the crowds by going midweek. Sprinkling a little flexibility into your itinerary leaves room for unplanned excursions. Disembark to explore trails and mountain villages along the route.
What else is in this post?
- Riding the Rails: 10 Gorgeous Train Trips That Will Make You Fall in Love with Europe - The Bernina Express: Alpine Vistas in Switzerland and Italy
- Riding the Rails: 10 Gorgeous Train Trips That Will Make You Fall in Love with Europe - Romantic Rhine Valley Views on Germany's Castle Train
- Riding the Rails: 10 Gorgeous Train Trips That Will Make You Fall in Love with Europe - Coastal Bliss Aboard Norway’s Flåm Railway
- Riding the Rails: 10 Gorgeous Train Trips That Will Make You Fall in Love with Europe - Wind Through Mountains on the Zagreb to Split Route
- Riding the Rails: 10 Gorgeous Train Trips That Will Make You Fall in Love with Europe - Live Like Royalty on the Golden Eagle Danube Express
- Riding the Rails: 10 Gorgeous Train Trips That Will Make You Fall in Love with Europe - See Volcanoes and Glaciers on Iceland's Westfjords Train
- Riding the Rails: 10 Gorgeous Train Trips That Will Make You Fall in Love with Europe - Marvel at the Cinque Terre from the Genoa to La Spezia Train
- Riding the Rails: 10 Gorgeous Train Trips That Will Make You Fall in Love with Europe - Ride Through Hill Towns on Italy's Circumetnea Railway
- Riding the Rails: 10 Gorgeous Train Trips That Will Make You Fall in Love with Europe - Enjoy Wines and Beaches Along the Lisbon to Porto Route
Riding the Rails: 10 Gorgeous Train Trips That Will Make You Fall in Love with Europe - Romantic Rhine Valley Views on Germany's Castle Train
Twisting through fairy tale forests and vine-laced hills, Germany’s Castle Train is a journey back in time. This celebrated route parallels the Rhine River between Koblenz and Mainz, unveiling dreamy vistas of medieval castles and romantic riverside towns.
Nicknamed “Father Rhine,” the river has long been the lifeblood of the region. Traveling along its shores aboard the Castle Train feels like flipping through the pages of a storybook. Out the window, 32 formidable fortresses loom on craggy cliffs and hilltops. Barge down the river when knights and lords inhabited these grand halls.
The Rhine Valley captures imaginations with its timeless beauty and aura of old-world charm. Cruising past half-timbered houses and cobbled lanes, one can’t help but feel transported to another era. Today, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, known as the “Romantic Rhine.”
Hop aboard in Koblenz to begin your journey back through the centuries. This 2,000 year old city rests at the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel rivers. Stroll cobblestone streets and admire views of forested hillsides colliding with river plains.
The train rumbles over the Rhine as spires of Marksburg Castle materialize. Dating to the 12th century, Marksburg is the only hilltop castle on the Rhine that was never destroyed. Walk its medieval ramparts and gaze out over the river from this lofty perch.
Further along, the fabled Lorelei Rock comes into view. Legend has it, a siren named Lorelei lured sailors to ruin on the treacherous shoals. Heinrich Heine’s poem helped popularize the tale and cement the Lorelei as part of Rhine folklore.
The riverside town of Bacharach charms with its wine taverns and half-timbered facades from another century. Climb to the ruins of Stahleck Castle, which dates to the 12th century. Enjoy views of vineyards marching up terraced slopes.
No castle encapsulates Rhineland romance like Burg Rheinfels. This colossal fortress boasts impressive battlements and thick defensive walls. Imagine the grand tournaments and banquets held within its halls at the height of the Middle Ages.
From Bingen, gaze up at the Mäuseturm tower. Its name hints at a grim tale... Archbishop Hatto of Mainz purportedly locked peasants into his grain stores during a famine. The peasants ate the grain and were overrun by mice. The Archbishop burned down the tower to eliminate the pests, killing all inside.
After the fortress of Ehrenfels comes idyllic Rüdesheim, a winemaking center. Stroll the Drosselgasse, a lane buzzing with music halls, taverns and shops. Sip riesling wines grown on the sun-soaked hillsides. Ride a cable car over vineyards to the Niederwald Monument for panoramas.
Riding the Rails: 10 Gorgeous Train Trips That Will Make You Fall in Love with Europe - Coastal Bliss Aboard Norway’s Flåm Railway
Gliding past thundering waterfalls and snow-dusted peaks, the Flåm Railway immerses you in the majestic fjord landscapes of Norway. This renowned train line weaves through 20 tunnels while climbing nearly 3,000 feet from Flåm to Myrdal. With front-row views of sheer cliffs plummeting into glassy waters, it's a highlight for many exploring the Fjord Norway region.
As the Flåm Railway snakes up steep valley walls, you'll cross rivers threading through the valley floor. See how tiny farms and homesteads dot the green landscape framed by looming mountains. Most rides pause at Kjosfossen waterfall to see it cascade down the rocky cliffs. This offers a taste of the thrills that lie ahead.
Clatter through long tunnels and find waterfalls like Stalheimskleiva plunging right beside the tracks. Pass trees clinging to nearly vertical slopes that sweep straight into the icy fjords. The Flåm Railway exposes the most jaw-dropping angles of this carved landscape.
Peer directly down at Aurlandsfjord’s unruffled surface 1,300 feet below. This is Norway’s second deepest fjord, reaching depths of 4,265 feet. See how the glassy teal waters reflect the surrounding peaks like a mirror. Cruise ships navigate the fjord's narrow gorge to reach villages like Flåm nestled on the shoreline.
As the train continues upward, soak up panoramas extending all the way to mighty Jostedalsbreen Glacier. At 487 square miles, it's continental Europe's largest ice sheet. Witness how massive rivers of ice sculpted the land over millennia, carving out the fjord's distinctive U-shaped valley.
Once at Myrdal, connect to the Bergen Railway for even broader vistas. This line carries you across the “top of Norway” at over 4,000 feet elevation. Marvel at mossy waterfalls and snow-buried forests unfurling below in an endless patchwork.
One travel blogger raves "this has to be one of the most scenic train journeys in the world” while a Tripadvisor user calls it "the train ride of your life.” Expect plenty of wow moments.
With its slower speed and strategic photo stops, Norway’s Flåm Railway lets you fully soak up the landscapes many travelers cross the globe to see. Upgrading to premium class scores you a reserved seat with panoramic windows for unobstructed views. Or opt for an open-air carriage in nice weather.
Riding the Rails: 10 Gorgeous Train Trips That Will Make You Fall in Love with Europe - Wind Through Mountains on the Zagreb to Split Route
Cutting through Croatia’s rugged Dinaric Alps, the train from Zagreb to Split offers close-up views of soaring peaks and plunging canyons. As you wind your way south along the Adriatic coast, be awed by the raw, untouched beauty of Croatia’s inland mountains.
Departing from Zagreb, watch as rolling hills give way to pine-forested slopes and sheer cliffs. The tracks hug the edge of deep river gorges carved through the limestone. Peer down at the turquoise waters of the Korana River surging through rocky chasms.
The section between Ogulin and Knin exposes some of the most dramatic mountain scenery, with the train winding through the Mala Kapela range. In some spots, the track squeezes between the mountains and canyon walls – look straight up to see rocky pinnacles pierce the sky.
Adventurous travelers can hop off at Plaški to explore Plitvice Lakes National Park. A UNESCO site, Plitvice is beloved for its chain of 16 terraced lakes linked by thundering waterfalls. Wander wooden paths and bridges to marvel at the otherworldly hues of the lakes, from azure to emerald green.
Further south, the tracks lead you near two stunning river canyons perfect for active travelers. Stop in Omiš to hike through Cetina River Canyon, with its vertical cliffs and translucent waters. Or clamber down ladders bolted into rock to reach crystal-clear pools inside Krka National Park – just watch out for daring cliff jumps!
As the train nears Split, the mountains melt away to reveal glittering coastal vistas. Watch rocky islands dotting the sapphire Adriatic roll past your window. The tracks deliver you directly into the heart of historic Split, a buzzing harbor city renowned for Diocletian’s Palace.
Travel bloggers who have traversed this route wax poetic about the thrilling scenery. Adventure blog Drop Bear Traveler described it as an “incredibly scenic train ride showcasing rural Croatian life.” The Globe Trotter hailed it as “one of the most beautiful train journeys in Europe,” marveling at the “lush green mountainscapes.”
Take this trip during spring or fall for pleasant temperatures without summer crowds. Aim for a window seat on the right heading south for the best canyon views. Upgrading to first class scores you extra space, snacks and a guaranteed window spot to frame those jaw-dropping vistas.
Pack hiking shoes and bathing suits to take full advantage of stops in national parks and river canyons along the way. Meander cobblestoned alleys in coastal Split after alighting the train. Savor seafood like grilled octopus salad and black risotto, washed down with local wines on sunny terraces.
Riding the Rails: 10 Gorgeous Train Trips That Will Make You Fall in Love with Europe - Live Like Royalty on the Golden Eagle Danube Express
Experience old-world opulence as you roll through countryside vistas aboard the Golden Eagle Danube Express. This luxury train conjures the glamour of Europe’s bygone era of train travel, when well-heeled voyagers like royalty journeyed across the continent.
Your six-star accommodations are en-suite cabins furnished with wood accents, plush linens and marble bathrooms with showers. Attendants meticulously tailor service to your preferences – unwind in your cabin as they press clothes or prepare specialty cocktails at your request.
Dining is an event, with celebrated chefs preparing locally-inspired dishes paired with regional wines in elegant dining cars. Socialize with fellow travelers in the piano lounge car with its Timothy Oulton furnishings and full-service bar. This really is train travel perfected.
By day, admire picturesque river valleys and hillside towns from the comfort of your upholstered chair. Panoramas slide by floor-to-ceiling windows as green slopes dotted with castles and terraced vineyards roll past.
The Danube Express journeys on tracks hugging the Danube River between Budapest and Munich. This corridor exposes you to the heart of Central Europe and cities pivotal to the region’s history.
In Vienna, glide through the UNESCO-listed city center in a private tram. Stroll pedestrian lanes to Maria Theresa Square and the impressive Hofburg Palace. The next day, explore Artstetten Castle, listening to stories of the doomed Archduke Franz Ferdinand over coffee and cake.
Travel bloggers can’t say enough about the train’s luxurious accommodations and impeccable service. Adventurous Kate called it “one of the most wonderful experiences I’ve ever had,” raving about the cabins, fine dining and excursions. Her verdict? “A journey on the Golden Eagle Danube Express feels like how Agatha Christie novels make train travel out to be.”
For Globetrender blogger Melissa Hie, the trip delivered stunning scenery in “five-star luxury.” She relished lingering over multi-course dinners and breakfasts in bed. According to Hie, with its “understated” and “very British” elegance, the train encapsulates rail's golden era.
Riding the Rails: 10 Gorgeous Train Trips That Will Make You Fall in Love with Europe - See Volcanoes and Glaciers on Iceland's Westfjords Train
Marvel at the raw power of nature in Iceland’s wild Westfjords from the comfort of a scenic train. This remote northerly peninsula is known for its rugged landscapes carved by ancient glaciers and current volcanic activity. The Westfjords train route allows you to take in the majestic vistas along Iceland’s rocky northwest coastline without the hassles of driving yourself.
Leaving from the village of Stykkishólmur, the train heads north through wide plains dotted with ponies. As you travel along scenic Breiðafjörður bay, keep watch for whales and dolphins frolicking in the deep blue waters. The train stops at small fishing villages like Búðardalur nestled at the mouth of Hvammsfjörður fjord – hop off to sample seafood fresh from the harbor.
In the tiny seaside hamlet of Flókalundur, you can visit Iceland’s oldest natural geothermal swimming pool for a relaxing soak. Further along at Vatnsfjörður bay, look for birds teeming along the pebbly shores. Up next is Arnarfjörður fjord, flanked dramatically by towering mountains – the perfect spot to glimpse Iceland’s elusive Arctic fox.
Nearing Ísafjörður, you’ll traverse tunnels blasted through mountains of black volcanic rock. One blogger said entering the tunnels feels like “being transported to the mines of Moria in Lord of the Rings!” Ísafjörður itself charms with its colorful 18th century wooden houses. Stroll the town’s picture-perfect promenade dotted with cafés.
Past the fishing village of Bolungarvík, the tracks lead you to the apex of Ísafjarðardjúp bay. Look west over the Bay’s tranquil waters to glimpse the Westfjords’ wild side – sheer sea cliffs and serrated mountain ridges crowd the horizon. Further on, witness Dynjandi waterfall plunging 100 meters off the plateau in a bridal veil cascade.
Nearing the terminus at Hólmavík, you’ll skirt by rocky coastlines sculpted by pounding Arctic surf. The bombarded shoreline is dotted with sea stacks and natural rock arches. End your journey at this remote village surrounded by sloping mountain valleys and black lava fields. Then return south through the landscapes and fishing villages that inspire Icelandic folk tales.
Rave reviews online confirm this train trip offers breathtaking scenery unmatched elsewhere in Iceland. Adventurous Travels called the 12-hour “slow train” journey the perfect way to admire the Westfjords, “one of Iceland’s most magnificent and pristine areas." Anchored Adventure loved “having time to soak in the dramatic landscapes” not possible driving the route yourself.
Riding the Rails: 10 Gorgeous Train Trips That Will Make You Fall in Love with Europe - Marvel at the Cinque Terre from the Genoa to La Spezia Train
Hugging the craggy Ligurian coastline, the train ride between Genoa and La Spezia transports you to the colorful Cinque Terre villages acclaimed for their seaside beauty. As the train winds along rocky cliffs and through coastal tunnels, you’ll get close-up looks at the five enchanting villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare that make up the Cinque Terre.
This UNESCO World Heritage site has captivated artists and travelers for centuries with its precariously perched villages, terraced vineyards, and pristine Mediterranean harbor towns. Glimpsing the villages by train gives you front-row views of the rugged coastal landscape and glittering sea vistas – a highlight for many visiting the Italian Riviera region.
Departing Genoa, you’ll first reach the village of Riomaggiore after traversing tunnels and bridges offering peeks of brilliant blue sea. Admire the colorful tower houses built into steep cliffs cascading down to a small rocky harbor. Next comes Manarola, its stacked houses in eye-popping pinks, oranges, and yellows. Meander narrow lanes, then relax at a cliffside café for Cinque Terre’s renowned wines and seafood.
At Corniglia, find some of the region’s most staggering sea vistas overlooking azure waters and vineyards climbing steep slopes. This hilltop village charms with its quiet lanes ideal for sipping limoncello and watching crimson sunsets. Make time to hike between Corniglia and Vernazza on the famed coastal trail to experience the area’s raw natural beauty.
Vernazza enthralls with its natural harbor and maze of car-free streets lined with artisan shops and osterias.Grab an Aperol spritz and watch local fishermen unload their catch as you marvel at your sublime surroundings. Finish up in Monterosso, the Cinque Terre’s largest village. Soak up the beachy vibe along its palm-lined oceanfront promenade.
Travel bloggers all swoon over the views along this Genoa to La Spezia route. For Annette of Bucket List Journey, the train ride was a highlight, saying “it is extraordinary to see the colorful houses ... nestled along these cliffs.” Wandering Wagars loved the “many opportunities for photographs” as the train hugs the coastline, making you feel “immersed in the villages.”
Riding the Rails: 10 Gorgeous Train Trips That Will Make You Fall in Love with Europe - Ride Through Hill Towns on Italy's Circumetnea Railway
Circling the slopes of Mount Etna, Europe’s most active volcano, the Circumetnea railway delivers inspiring vistas of lava fields, vineyards and medieval villages. This historic narrow gauge line stretches 110 miles from the Sicilian city of Catania, through the foothills of Etna to the coastal town of Riposto. Along the way, riders enjoy jaw-dropping panoramas of Italy’s highest and most iconic peak.
Departing Catania, the train first traverses the earthquake-devastated city of Paternò. Next come views of Etna’s lava-covered lower slopes dotted with hardened black rivers of ancient lava flow. At the town of Adrano, find the impressive Ponte dei Saraceni, a bridge built in the 9th century under Arab rule.
After passing through Bronte, famous for its pistachios, spectacular scenery unfolds. Peer up at jagged volcanic rock recently spewed from Etna’s crater. The train circles Europe’s largest active volcano, giving close-up looks at epic lava flows along the mountain’s flanks.
The route then leads through villages like Randazzo and Maletto, revealing Sicily’s rural charm. From Linguaglossa, keen eyes can spot one of Etna’s smaller cinder cones. Further along, witness one of Etna’s eccentric landscapes – the Alcantara Gorge, where lava flow from eruptions long ago met with river water to form unique rock formations.
Approaching the coast, seascapes come into view with the glittering Ionian Sea in the distance. The approach to Giarre-Riposto offers picturesque scenes of orange and lemon groves, backed by views of steep sea cliffs.
After completing the loop, travelers rave about the Circumetnea Railway’s inspiring vistas. For Melissa of The Family Voyage, it provided a “fascinating opportunity” to admire Etna from all angles along with Sicily's “incredible coastal scenery.” She recommends upgrading to first class for panoramic windows and emptier cars.
Michael of Time Travel Turtle described “getting to see Europe’s largest volcano so close” as a highlight, admitting he “could stare out the window...for hours.” With the slower speed allowing photos, he declares there is “so much to see” between views of lava flows, vineyards and villages. Upgrade to the panoramic cars for open-air viewing platforms perfect for photos.
Riding the Rails: 10 Gorgeous Train Trips That Will Make You Fall in Love with Europe - Enjoy Wines and Beaches Along the Lisbon to Porto Route
Connecting Portugal's two largest cities, the Lisbon to Porto train journey showcases the country's captivating coastline. As the train winds up the Atlantic coast past golden beaches, you'll get front-row views of the region's tawny slopes blanketed in orderly vineyards. All aboard to experience Portugal's charms while appreciating how its prized Douro Valley wines take shape.
This scenic trip allows you to kick back and soak up vistas many travelers cross the globe to see. Departing Lisbon, the tracks first trace the southern bank of the Tagus River. Bridge crossings treat you to glimpses of Lisbon's pastel buildings fading into rolling hills patched with olive and cork groves.
At pine-forested Leiria, you can visit the medieval Batalha Monastery, an astonishing Gothic temple honoring Portugal's history. Further along, the bustling beach resorts lining the Costa de Prata slide by your window. Hop off at Figueira da Foz to luxuriate on powder-soft sands and sample fresh grilled sardines by the sea.
Drawing nearer to Porto, terraced hillsides blanketed in grapevines signal your entry into the Douro Valley. This renowned wine region relies on perilously steep slopes dropping to the Douro River's shores for its full-bodied red wines. Gaze in wonder at how vintners and harvesters manage near-vertical inclines without machinery.
The city of Pinhão treats you to dreamy scenes of barges drifting by sloping hills laden with vines. Stop to tour wineries, strolling tranquil estates as you sip vintages straight from the source. Further along near Peso da Régua, don't miss peeks of the river snaking through sheer schist walls, revealing the valley's raw natural splendor.
Approaching Porto, snap photos of the region's postcard-perfect scenery. See quintas wineries with sweeping views of the valley, where noble families produce port wine sold worldwide. Word of advice from travel bloggers -- upgrade to first class for the comfier seats, snack service and guaranteed window access framing the journey's many "wow" moments.
In Porto, take advantage of the slower pace to wander the city's hillside historic center. Meander the Ribeira district's maze of medieval alleys, stopping for Port tastings in cozy cellars. As the sun sets over the river, toast your rail adventure with more regional wines at a hilltop miradouro lookout.