The 10 most scenic train journeys in Europe for 2023

Clipping through the Alps or coasting along the French countryside, there’s no better way to move throughout Europe than via its incredible and comprehensive train system. But with more than 222,924km (138,518 miles) of track to explore, it’s hard to know where to step aboard and where to alight.

Fortunately, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most scenic routes in Europe – best enjoyed from a window seat. So whether you’re are navigating the depths of a fjord or spotting romantic castles that dot the Rhine river, turn off your screen, relax and enjoy the most picturesque train journeys in Europe. All aboard!

A red and white train crosses an arched railway bridge in Norway, Kylling Bridge, high above the valley tree line below with a snowy, grey mountain in the backgroundLandscapes along the Rauma Line in Norway are nothing short of spectacular © Shutterstock / Arild Lilleboe

1. Rauma Line, Norway

Route: Dombås to Åndalsnes
Don’t miss: Admiring Trollveggen, Europe’s highest perpendicular rock face
Distance and duration: 70 miles (114km), 1½ hours
Best time to ride: June to August

Enjoy sensational views of high peaks, jagged rock faces and mountain slopes leading up to windswept plateaus as you trace the Rauma River aboard Norway’s Rauma Line. Rattling across the lofty Kylling Bridge is one of the highlights of the trip with the driver allowing a short stop to take photos. The train then wends its way through the rugged Reinheimen National Park.

Immerse yourself in the best experiences the world has to offer with our email newsletter delivered weekly into your inbox. A steam train drives over the viaduct at Glenfinnan, ScotlandMade famous by the Harry Potter films, the West Highland Line in Scotland really is magical © evenfh / Shutterstock

2. West Highland Line, Scotland

Route: Fort William to Mallaig
Don’t miss: Sampling seafood in Mallaig
Distance and duration: 41 miles (67km), 1½ hours
Best time to ride: June to August

The West Highland Line in Scotland is certainly one scenic journey, with rugged highlands, isolated lochs, flashes of coastline, Ben Nevis (Britain’s highest mountain) and spectacular views from the viaduct at Glenfinnan. The route and steam train are so easy on the eye that they crop up as the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter films. 

Train traveling on the Bergen Railway, alongside a river surrounded by dense forestJourney to Norway’s highest station on the beautiful Bergen Railway © Marius Dobilas / Shutterstock

3. Bergen Railway, Norway

Route: Oslo to Bergen via Flåm
Don’t miss: Learning more about this feat of engineering at the Flåm Railway Museum
Distance and duration: 342 miles (550km), seven hours
Best time to ride: July or November to January

Norway’s awe-inspiring Bergen Railway links two incredible cities as it rolls through craggy mountain landscapes and across the beautiful Hardangervidda plateau to the country’s highest station, Finse at 4010ft (1222m), only accessible by train. On a branch line from Myrdal to Flåm, you go straight up on the world’s steepest railway line. The ride ends on the west coast of Norway in beautiful Bergen.

Bernina Express traveling through the snowy Swiss AlpsThe Bernina Express offers panoramic views of the Swiss Alps © Mor65_Mauro Piccardi /Shutterstock

4. Bernina Express, Switzerland and Italy

Route: Chur to Tirano
Don’t miss: Chic, lakeside St Moritz
Distance and duration: 76 miles (123km), four hours
Best time to ride: April

Relax behind panoramic windows and soak up the spectacular Alpine views that connect northern and southern Europe via the highest railway in the Alps. Following two Unesco World Heritage–listed lines, the Albula and the Bernina, the Bernina Express sweeps among glaciers in Switzerland as it makes it way down through the mountains to the palms of Italy.

Train station in a small village with colourful houses on the edge of a low cliff. The rocky coastline stretches into the distance.Regional trains stop at each of the five villages of Italy’s Cinque Terre © Julia Lav / Shutterstock

5. Cinque Terre, Italy

Route: Levanto to La Spezia
Don’t miss: Walking the soon to reopen Via dell’Amore (the Path of Love) from Riomaggiore and Manarola
Distance and duration: 12.5 miles (20km), 40 minutes
Best time to ride: February to October

Five colorful, rustic villages give Cinque Terre, an 11-mile (18km) stretch of rugged coastline, its name, meaning “five lands.” Cliffs tumble into the picture-postcard turquoise Ligurian Sea, and bucolic vineyards and olive groves line the hills. Regional trains stop at all five Cinque Terre villages with plenty of ‘wow’ views in between.

A red Deutsche Bahn railway train cuts between the wine terraced hills of the Rhine Valley in GermanyCoast through riverside scenery in Germany on the Rhine railway © Shutterstock / SkandaRamana

6. Rhine Valley Railway, Germany

Route: Bingen to Koblenz
Don’t miss: Admiring the Lorelei Sculpture south of St Goarshausen
Distance and duration: 38 miles (61km), 50 minutes
Best time to ride: February to October

Germany’s Rhine Valley offers romantic landscapes straight from a fairytale. Castles rise above swirling waters, past the narrows where according to legend the siren Lorelei lures sailors onto the rocks with her song. The Mittelrheinbahn (Central Rhine Railway) follows the snaking left bank of the Rhine River between Mainz and Koblenz.

Tracks along the Semmering Railway, AustriaThe Unesco-listed Semmering Railway passes over 16 viaducts on its journey between Gloggnitz and Mürzzuschlag © trabantos / Shutterstock

7. Semmering Railway, Austria

Route: Gloggnitz to Mürzzuschlag
Don’t miss: Hiking along the railway line and then relaxing in a winter sauna in Semmering
Distance and duration: 25.5 miles (41km), 45 minutes
Best time to ride: Year round

Constructed between 1848 and 1854 by more than 20,000 workers, the Semmering Railway trundles through a picturesque wonderland as the train crosses the 965m-high (3166ft) Semmering Pass, taking in 15 tunnels, 16 viaducts, countless switchbacks and arched bridges on a forested mountain stretch.

Train on the Centovalli Railway crosses the Isorno Bridge near Intragna, SwitzerlandThe Centovalli Railway crossing over the Melezza River © Mor65_Mauro Piccardi / Shutterstock

8. Centovalli Railway, Switzerland and Italy

Route: Locarno to Domodossola
Don’t miss: Strolling along dazzling blue Lake Maggiore
Distance and duration: 32 miles (52km), two hours
Best time to ride: June to August

The “Hundred Valley” Railway is a spectacle of waterfalls, chestnut groves, lush landscapes and vineyards: the Alps at their spellbinding best. Highlights of this journey include the Isorno Bridge near the village of Intragna and the gorge connecting Intragna and Re as the track passes through more than 30 tunnels and weaves across some 83 bridges.

Train passing the Bavarian Alps near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, GermanyRide on a train in the shadow of the Bavarian Alps on the Mittenwald Railway © agustavop / Getty Images

9. Mittenwald Railway, Austria and Germany

Route: Innsbruck to Zugspitze via Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Don’t miss: Schloss Ambras, a commanding white castle in Innsbruck
Distance and duration: 51.5 miles (83km), three hours
Best time to ride: Year round

The Mittenwald Railway is a beautiful border-crossing route that glides past glittering lakes and glorious mountainous landscapes on its journey between Austria and Germany. At Garmisch-Partenkirchen you can change trains and hop on the scenic Bavarian Zugspitze Railway, which chugs toward the summit of Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain at 9717ft (2961m).

The bright red Glacier Express train cuts through rugged mountains covered in snow and trees under a clear blue skyThe Glacier Express sees some of Switzerland’s most breathtaking scenery © Alessandro Colle / Shutterstock

10. Glacier Express, Switzerland

Route: Zermatt to St Moritz
Don’t miss: Getting to know the mountains at the Matterhorn Museum
Distance and duration: 180 miles (291km), 7½ hours
Best time to ride: November to January

On the Glacier Express, the chances of meeting a millionaire are higher than average as you curl between the eastern and western Swiss Alps, through pristine mountain landscapes and two of Switzerland’s most reputable ski resorts. It’s de rigueur for the ski enthusiast (and, literally, the upwardly mobile).


Leave a Reply