Lesli’s Lists: Europe’s Top 10 Scenic Rail Journeys & 1 Epic Journey!

by Lesli Heron

Europe train travel is all about efficiency and comfort but it is also about experiences. Some of the most difficult terrain has given us the most picturesque journeys. The following are some of Europe’s best scenic train routes. Not necessarily the fastest journeys—just the most memorable!

1. Sarajevo to Mostar Traversing superb Balkan scenery, the train from Sarajevo climbs to its highest point near Konjic. The descent into Herzegovina passes through dramatic gorges to the town of Mostar, famous for the 16th-century stone bridge that was destroyed during the Bosnian War in the 1990s and rebuilt. Duration: 2.5 hours.
2. Sweet Switzerland – The Chocolate Train. This train climbs from Montreux to the medieval town of Gruyères, home to the cheese of the same name and continues on to Broc. Bus to the Cailler-Nestlé chocolate factory for free samples before making the return trip. Duration: 9 hours

3. Tunnels Galore – The Bernina Express – Chur, Switzerland, to Tirano, Italy. This narrow-gauge, vertigo-inducing train takes on seven-percent inclines, a 360-degree spiral, 55 tunnels, and 196 bridges—reaching an apex of 7,391 feet and then descending 5,905 feet before coming to a stop. Part of the route is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Duration: 4 hours

4. A Hotel on Wheels – Francisco de Goya – Paris to Madrid.
Leave Paris in the evening, enjoy a three-course dinner and the increasingly rural scenery, slumber to the soothing rhythm of the rails, and wake the next day as you arrive in Madrid, rested and ready to tour the third-most-populous city in the European Union. Duration: 13 hours

5. The Flam Railway – Flam to Myrdal, Norway. The Flam Railway, rising from a village on the shores of Aurlandsfjord, mounts a steeper climb than any other normal-gauge railroad in the world. In just 12 miles, the train climbs over 2,838 feetto reach the mountain plateau of Myrdal in under an hour. Duration: 1 hour

6. Bavarian Bullet – InterCity-Express – Munich to Nuremberg. Want to go fast? This high-speed wonder zooms you between two historic Bavarian cities at speeds up to 199 miles an hour. Duration: 1 hour

7. Venice Simplon-Orient-Express – London to Venice. Step aboard and the calendar turns back to the golden age of rail on the Continent. Dine in authentic 1920’s carriages and share travellers’ tales over glasses of champagne. Awake to breakfast in bed and the stunning scenery of the Alps out your window. Duration: 2 days, 1 night

8. Central Rhine Railway – Bingen to Koblenz.
Offering romantic German landscapes straight from a fairytale – castles rising above swirling waters, past the narrows where the siren Loreley sings sailors onto the rocks. Duration: 50 minutes

9. Glacier Express – Zermatt to St Moritz. On this route the chances of meeting a millionaire are higher than average as you curl between the eastern and western Swiss Alps, through pristine Alpine landscapes. Duration: 7½ hours

10. Andalucia Spanish steps – Algeciras to Ronda. Climb from Algeciras to one of Andalucia’s finest examples of a Moorish hilltop town via an ascent only made possible by a network of tunnels and viaducts before emerging in Ronda, perched high on the edge of a ravine. Duration: 1½ hours.

The Epic Journey – Trans-Siberian Railway – Moscow to Vladivostok, Russia
The world’s longest railway, an icon of Russian culture, crosses eight time zones and 16 major rivers linking Europe to Asia. Experience the diversity of the landscape, culture and people as you travel 9,288km. Duration: minimum 7 days