Are you planning a European train adventure and want to include some of the most scenic trains in Europe? From short and sweet trips through Norwegian valleys to slow luxury in the Swiss Alps to coastal gems between Italian fishing villages, here are some of the most beautiful train rides in Europe.
If you’re scouring the internet for the ultimate list of Europe’s most stunning train rides, you’ve just hit the jackpot.
Let’s face it, Europe’s vast rail network is a bit like a tangled web of tracks, and while each journey has its charm, pinpointing those with the real jaw-dropping views can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack.
But fear not, I’ve got you covered!
I’m an absolute sucker for train travel in Europe, I typically spend a few months each year chasing train adventures across the continent and I’ve explored 18 countries so far with a trusty Eurail Pass and far too much luggage.
I consider myself somewhat of a train travel aficionado. My mission? To bring you the crème de la crème of scenic train journeys that Europe has to offer, and to share some top train travel tips for each ride to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck on these rail adventures.
Whether you’re an eco-conscious traveller trying to tread lightly, a shutterbug on the hunt for your next frameable shot, or someone who just savours the finer things in life and wants the ultimate window seat, these scenic European railway rides are ones to add to your train bucket list.
Here are nine of the most beautiful train rides in Europe, plus some top travel tips if you want to add them to your next trip.
The Glacier Express, Switzerland
Route: Zermatt to St Moritz
Distance & duration: About 291km, just under 8 hours
There’s no other way to start this list than with the iconic Glacier Express, known as ‘the slowest express train in the world’. But what it lacks in speed, it certainly makes up for in scenery!
Connecting the two mountain resorts of Zermatt in the west and St Moritz in the east, the Glacier Express winds through the heart of the Swiss Alps, providing panoramic views of valleys, gorges and lakes while crossing 291 bridges and going through 91 tunnels.
The train itself is a step above in terms of luxury, with huge panoramic windows offering unobstructed views of the epic landscapes over a full day journey.
First class is a worthwhile upgrade for more space and the option to sit in a single-seat row as a solo traveller or a duo (rather than a 2-2 formation where you’d share with two others), and if you want to go all out, Excellence Class includes concierge service, an impressive five-course menu and a glass of Champagne.
Is it included in a rail pass? If you’re booking a Glacier Express trip and plan on taking other trains in Switzerland or anywhere else in Europe, getting a rail pass like a Eurail Pass or Swiss Travel Pass will almost certainly be worth it. A rail pass covers the cost of your ticket (159CHF to 2nd class or 272CHF for 1st) and you just have to pay for a seat reservation. It’s a no brainer!
Travel tip: One of my favourite hotels in the world is in Zermatt, and I’ll always stay there before or after a Glacier Express adventure. It’s called Hotel ZERMAMA, a gorgeous boutique design hotel with fantastic food, in-room fondue sets and a co-working space, ideal for digital nomads. It’s worth paying more for a room with a view, you’ll be able to spot the Matterhorn from your balcony, bathtub or bed (or all three!).
Read more: The ultimate Glacier Express guide (2024)
The Bernina Express, Switzerland
Route: Chur to Tirano is the main route, with a shorter option available from St Moritz to Tirano
Distance & duration: 144km, about 4 hours
An easy add on from the Glacier Express, Switzerland’s Bernina Express has two routes that run from Chur or St Moritz through to Tirano, just across the Italian border.
The train experience is more simple on the Bernina, but the views are no less breathtaking. You’ll bear witness to dramatic alpine scenery including mighty glaciers, snow-dipped peaks and charming mountain villages, as well as some engineering marvels like the iconic Brusio Spiral Viaduct.
One of the trip highlights is a quick stop at Alp Grüm at 2091m of elevation, allowing passengers to disembark for some incredible photos overlooking the bright teal Lago Palü and the glacier that feeds it.
The Bernina Express is impressive year-round but it’s particular special during the autumn season, where the foliage turns all shades of red, orange and yellow.
Is it included in a rail pass? The Bernina Express ticket cost is covered by a Eurail/Interrail Pass or Swiss Travel Pass, but you have to pay for the seat reservation which is 28-36CHF depending on the route and season.
Travel tip: Upon arriving in Tirano you can book the connecting Bernina Express Bus to shuttle you to Lugano to continue your Switzerland itinerary, but I’d recommend spending some time in the small Italian village to experience the unique border culture and cuisine. If you stick around long enough for a meal, Ristorante Parravicini is a must-visit, and Ostello del Castello offers great value and authentic guesthouse accommodation.
Read more: The ultimate Bernina Express guide (2024)
Flam Railway, Norway
Route: Myrdal to Flam
Distance & duration: 20km, about 50 minutes
Offering the best views-for-time ratio on this list, the 50 minute Flam Railway is short but stunningly scenic.
This engineering marvel cuts through the rugged landscape with an elevation of 863m, featuring steep descents, tight turns and 20 tunnels, 18 of which were hand-carved during the track’s construction in the 1920s and 30s. The views will capture your attention for the entire route, with harsh cliffs, verdant valleys and towering waterfalls making it the best train ride in Norway.
Book in advance to avoid missing out during busy periods, and there are no reserved seats so get to the platform 15-30 minutes early to get a window seat. The best views are on the left-hand side going downhill from Myrdal to Flam, or the right-hand side from Flam up to Myrdal, and photographers will want to sit at one of the windows that opens (every third window) to avoid annoying glass reflections.
Is it included in a rail pass? The Flam Railway isn’t included in the Eurail or Interrail Pass, but rail pass holders do get 30% off! You can’t book the rail pass discount online unfortunately so you’ll have to buy tickets from a manned station in Norway or call the VY contact centre.
Travel tip: The Flam Railway is an easy day trip from Bergen and can be combined with a magical Nærøyfjord cruise and shuttle combo to create a loop route that showcases some of southern Norway’s best landscapes, but I’d recommend stopping in Flam Village for a night or two to get a more authentic and in-depth experience.
Read more: Is the Flam Railway worth it?
West Highland Line, Scotland
Route: Glasgow to Mallaig
Distance & duration: 264km, about 5h 30m
Step aboard the West Highland Line for a journey through Scotland’s rugged heartland, a route renowned for its wild landscapes and cinematic allure.
Over a course of about five and a half hours, this train journey connects the bustling city of Glasgow with the remote port town of Mallaig, passing by lochs, moors and mountains along the way.
Many travellers choose to disembark at Fort William (where the Caledonian Sleeper night train terminates) but the additional 90 minute journey to Mallaig is definitely worth it, especially for Harry Potter nerds who want to see the magical Glenfinnan Viaduct a.k.a. the Hogwarts Express bridge.
Is it included in a rail pass? You can do the whole route from Glasgow to Mallaig on trains that are included in your Eurail/Interrail Pass, with no seat reservations necessary. If you want to take the Jacobite steam train (the Hogwarts Express) you’ll need to book that separately, it’s not included in any rail pass.
Travel tip: Sit on the left side for the best views from Glasgow to Fort William, but at Fort William the train changes direction, so you’ll want to switch sides to the ‘new’ left side from Fort William to Mallaig.
Santa Claus Express, Finland
Route: Helsinki to Finnish Lapland
Distance & duration: Around 880km and 12 hours from Helsinki to Rovaniemi (or you can continue to Kolari or Kemijärvi)
With most of this journey taking place during nighttime, especially if you’re travelling in winter with very short days, this train makes it onto the list of the most beautiful train trips in Europe because of the magic of the destination.
Departing Helsinki (or Turku) in the evening, this overnight sleeper train will rock you to sleep as it zooms through rural Finland to reach the winter wonderland of Rovaniemi, the gateway to Lapland’s wilderness and where the Christmas spirit lives year-round.
Travellers visiting Finnish Lapland can meet Santa Claus Village (where you can meet Santa year-round!), walk across the Arctic Circle, visit Arctic animals in their natural habitats at Ranua Wildlife Park and immerse themselves in local cuisine and culture.
Though Lapland is beautiful at any time of the year, the cooler months are where it truly comes to life, with snow blanketing the forests, husky and reindeer sledding on offer, and the chance to spot the celestial dance of the Northern Lights. For a combination of winter activities, high likelihood of aurora spotting and lower prices, the shoulder season of September/October and March/April are ideal.
Is it included in a rail pass? The train ticket is included in the pass but you’ll need to pay to reserve a seat or sleeper cabin.
Travel tip: If the Northern Lights are on your Lapland bucket list, I highly recommend booking a Northern Lights tour. These local aurora experts know exactly what they’re doing, they’ll be across all the forecasts and current conditions thanks to their network in the area, and they’ll do all the driving so you can just enjoy the ride. I booked a trip with the legendary Miguel at Wonderlapland and it was a 10/10 experience.
Cinque Terre train, Italy
Route: La Spezia to Levanto
Distance & duration: Around 19km, 20-30 minutes for the whole trip
The Cinque Terre train weaves its way through one of Italy’s most celebrated coastlines, offering travellers easy access to the five iconic villages of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.
As the train snakes along the Ligurian coast, passengers are treated to fleeting glimpses of the Mediterranean’s crystal-clear waters, terraced vineyards and pastel-coloured houses precariously built into the steep cliffs. The train itself is just a typical Italian regional train, but its the destinations that put this trip on the list of the most incredible European train journeys.
You might be tempted to visit the Cinque Terre in summer, but from personal experience I can tell you that the insane crowds and intense heat can really impact your trip, especially during the peak tourist months of July and August where seemingly every European flocks to this tiny part of Italy. Visiting in the shoulder season (March/April and October/November) are much calmer, still offer mild weather, and provide a much more comfortable tourist experience.
If you’re planning on taking the train four times in one day, it’s worth buying a Cinque Terre Card rather than paying for your tickets individually.
Is it included in a rail pass? The train is included in a Eurail/Interrail Pass and doesn’t require any seat reservations, however it might be better value for you to just buy the Cinque Terre Card rather than wasting a day of your rail pass (if you have limited days).
Travel tip: Nessun Dorma is a restaurant sitting above Manarola, and it is absolutely divine for an afternoon Apreol and pesto bruschetta. It’s popular so there’s always a bit of a wait but they have an app which lets you join a virtual queue, all the details are on their website (just scroll to the bottom).
Read more: 50+ epic things to do in Italy
Belgrade to Bar Railway
Route: Belgrade, Serbia to Bar, Montenegro
Distance & duration: 476km, around 11 hours
Explore a lesser-visited part of Europe with this epic Balkan journey that bridges the creative capital of Serbia with the coastal charm of Montenegro.
This 476km expedition unfolds over 11 hours, night trains are available year-round but there are day trains in summer. As you traverse from the vibrant streets of Belgrade to the serene shores of Bar (or vice versa), you’ll witness some of Eastern Europe’s most dramatic landscapes, from the rugged Dinaric Alps to lush gorges to pristine lakes and everything in between.
The train’s engineering feats can’t go unmentioned either, it navigates through 254 tunnels and over 435 bridges, including the world-renowned Mala Rijeka viaduct, which sits at 200m high and is one of the tallest railway viaducts in the world. If you’re afraid of heights you might want to keep your eyes closed for that bit!
From summer 2024 the day train will consist of modern carriages so it’ll be a much more comfortable trip than reviews you might have read online from years past.
Is it included in a rail pass? Yes! There’s a small seat reservation fee to pay but it’s only a few euros.
Travel tip: The portion from Bar to Bijelo Polje in Montenegro is where you’ll see the best scenery, so the northbound day train or the southbound night train are the best options for the views.
Rhine Valley Line, Germany
Route: Cologne to Mainz, but the best bit is between Koblenz and Bingen
Distance & duration: 195km-ish, around two hours for the scenic train
The Rhine Valley Line is one of Germany’s most captivating train journeys, it meanders along the heart of the Rhine stretching from Cologne to Koblenz. This two-hour train ride covers a distance of approximately 195 kilometers, offering passengers a front-row seat to the Rhine Valley’s UNESCO-listed landscapes, brimming with romantic castles, steep vineyards, and timeless villages.
This part of Germany is beautiful year-round, but visiting in late spring through early autumn offers the chance to see the vineyards in full bloom and lush greenery along the river.
There are a bunch of stops along this route that would be worth a visit, so you could make a day of it and hop on and off to explore different places like Bingen, Bacharach and St. Goar.
Is it included in a rail pass? It sure is, no seat reservations required.
Travel tip: There are high-speed trains that make the Cologne to Mainz trip on a more direct and less scenic route, so make sure you’re booking a ticket for the scenic Rhine Valley line, you can add ‘Koblenz’ as a stopover when you search for your tickets and this will make sure you’re on the right train.
Douro Line, Portugal
Route: Porto São Bento to Pocinho
Distance & duration: 175km, around 3.5 hours
Wine lovers, foodies and Wes Anderson fans rejoice, the Douro Line in northern Portugal is waiting for you.
Covering around 175 kilometers in approximately three and a half hours in total, this route snakes along the Douro River, famous for its terraced vineyards, verdant valley, and quintessential Portuguese charm.
The first hour is pretty boring as it runs through suburban areas on the outskirts of Porto, but once the train meets up with the river, the views are seriously impressive. The train itself is something special too, the interiors are Wes Anderson-esque with retro seats and bright, funky colours.
For the ultimate Douro experience, stop off at Pinhão for lunch and some wine tasting. Many boat trips from Porto stop here too so it could be busy, make a restaurant reservation in advance if there’s somewhere specific you want to go. I recommend Cardanho dos Presuntos, the Vintage House Hotel and Bomfim 1896.
From Pinhão continue on the most scenic segment of the route to Pocinho, then turn around and make your way back to Porto. The perfect day trip, and one of my favourite things to do while travelling solo in Porto.
Is it included in a rail pass? This train is fully covered by a Eurail or Interrail Pass, no seat reservations required.
Travel tip: For the best views of the valley and the river, sit on the right side from Porto to Ferradosa, then the left side from there until Pocinho. Switch sides if the train isn’t busy, otherwise just sit on the other side on the way back.
Read more: An epic itinerary for two days in Porto
And those are my top picks for the most beautiful train journeys in Europe. Whether you’re winding through the Alps, alongside the Douro, or under the Northern Lights, each route promises a unique adventure that’s bound to leave you with memories and stories to cherish for a lifetime.
If you have any other epic European train trips that I need to add to my travel bucket list then please let me know in the comments!
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