Are you interested in touring Europe in the most unique and environmentally friendly way? Hop on the most iconic train routes and discover the most breathtaking landscapes across several European countries. Look forward to picturesque scenes, including magnificent mountains, flowery landscapes, beautiful blue ocean waters, countryside vineyards, meandering rivers, stunning hills, and deep gorges.
This article will cover some of the best European interrail and rail journeys. You will discover their routes, travel time, and the best time of the year to travel. If you discover an amazing train route you want to try, don’t forget to buy your travel insurance. It will cover you throughout your trip in case of risks like cancellations, medical emergencies, luggage loss, or accommodation disruptions.
- 1 Ten of the most iconic train routes in Europe
- 1.1 1. Rauma Line, Norway
- 1.2 2. Bernina Express, Switzerland and Italy
- 1.3 3. Bergen Railway, Norway
- 1.4 4. Semmering Railway, Austria
- 1.5 5. Glacier Express, Switzerland
- 1.6 6. Venice Simplon Orient-Express, UK, France & Italy
- 1.7 7. La Ligne des Cévennes, France
- 1.8 8. North York Moors Railway, England
- 1.9 9. Brocken Railway, Germany
- 1.10 10. Golden Eagle Danube Express, Turkey to Hungary
- 2 Don’t forget your insurance
Ten of the most iconic train routes in Europe
1. Rauma Line, Norway
- Route: Åndalsnes to Dombås
- Best time of the year to do it: June to August
The Rauma Line route begins at Åndalsnes, then to Bjorji, Read, and ends at Dombås. The distance is about 114km, and the train takes about 1½ hours. The Rauma line is popularly known as one of Norway’s most stunning train journeys. During the journey, you cross 32 bridges and six tunnels, and the elevation ranges from 4 m to 659 m above sea level. The line also has stunning and well-known attractions such as valleys and a National Park.
The train has large windows so you can admire all the beautiful sites in this Nordic country. Stay alert to witness Trollveggen, Europe’s highest perpendicular rock face, stunning green valleys, rocky peaks, and the emerald green River Rauma. The train traverses the Reinheimen National Park, where you can take lovely photos of the remote wilderness. The Rauma Line train carriages are modern and have air conditioning to make your journey comfortable. You can easily access the restrooms. The train also has a wheelchair lift for passengers with health impairments.
2. Bernina Express, Switzerland and Italy
- Route: Chur, Switzerland to Tirano, Italy
- Best time of the year to do it: April or May and October
Interestingly, Bernina Express is the highest railway in the Alps and Switzerland’s most popular train ride. The train goes up 7391 feet and descends 5,905 feet to reach the destination. The journey commences in Chur, Switzerland, and then takes you on a picturesque route through the Swiss Alps, the Bernina Pass, and Val Poschiavo Valley and ends at Tirano in Italy. The route is 122km long, and the train takes four hours through 196 bridges and 55 tunnels.
The Bernina Express was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008 because of its stunning natural landscapes, culture, and history. The train ride between St. Moritz and the Bernina Pass is extremely thrilling because of the photogenic views of the Morteratsch Glacier and Piz Bernina’s peak. The route is a real treat with scenic views of the Swiss Alps, the Italian Alps, tunnels, bridges, beautiful villages, lush green valleys, snow-filled mountains, and blossoming flowers. You can access short-notice seat reservations on both classes of service on Bernina Express. The train has huge panoramic windows that go up to the ceiling so you can view the highest peaks of the Alps.
3. Bergen Railway, Norway
- Route: Oslo to Bergen
- Best time of the year to do it: July or November to January
The 550km Bergen Railway line connects two amazing cities in seven hours. The journey starts at Oslo, then to Geilo, Voss, and finally ends at Bergen. The route goes through steep mountain sceneries, the stunning Hardangervidda plateau, and Norway’s highest station, Finse, at 4010ft and is only reachable by train.
Ensure you stay observant throughout the journey because there are numerous European scenic landscapes to photograph. During spring and autumn, the train route looks like a live painting of the four seasons, as the breezy flower fields and stunning valleys transition to icy forests and sparkling lakes. The mountain landscapes offer unique Arctic flora and wildlife, such as Arctic foxes and snow owls. Some days, if you get lucky, you may see the biggest wild reindeer herd in Europe along the train line. The reindeer herd has over 9,000 animals that move like a surging carpet over the landscape. Start the train ride in the morning to enjoy the scenes throughout the seven-hour journey. Besides, pack some snacks in case the onboard menu does not impress you.
4. Semmering Railway, Austria
- Route: Gloggnitz to Mürzzuschlag
- Best time of the year to do it: All year round
The Semmering Railway rolls through a scenic wonderland as the train traverses the 3166ft Semmering Pass, 15 tunnels, 100 bridges, 16 viaducts, and numerous switchbacks. The train starts from Gloggnitz, goes through a 42 km forested mountain stretch, and stops at Murzzuschlag. Semmering Railway holds the world record for the first mountain railway line. Due to the railway line’s significant engineering works, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998. Through the years, numerous houses and hotels have been constructed along the route, making it Austria’s top winter sports destination.
The train ride offers outstanding views of the Austrian Alps regardless of the time of the year. The entire ride is enjoyable and comfortable due to the excellently constructed tunnels and overpasses. Besides the spectacular landscapes, there are beautiful views of 57 outstanding cottages for railway staff spaced out along the train line. Semmering Railway offers children’s entertainment if you are traveling with kids, power sockets, disabled facilities, a snack trolley, and a toilet.
5. Glacier Express, Switzerland
- Route: Zermatt to St Moritz
- Best time of the year to do it: November to January
Glacier Express is a slow travel train line with an average speed of 38kph to allow visitors to take in the spectacular views. The train journey starts at Zermatt and crosses the Swiss Alps to St. Moritz. The train takes 7.5 hours to cover this 290 kilometers route, climbing up to 2,033 meters at the Oberalp Pass. This Pass gives breathtaking scenes of the adjacent mountains through the panoramic train windows. The Glacier Express travels through 291 bridges, 91 tunnels, forests, the beautiful Rhine Gorge, and valleys.
When you take the Glacier Express from November to January, you will enjoy the panoramic scenes of the winter wonderland. It has gigantic snow-capped peaks, thick alpine forests, and stone viaducts as high as 61 meters. Alongside the breathtaking views of the Swiss Alps, Glacier Express offers you luxury dining if you travel in the Excellence Class carriage. You get a five-course meal complemented by French or Swiss wine. A popular menu is the cheese tart, smoked trout, and beef tenderloin.
6. Venice Simplon Orient-Express, UK, France & Italy
- Route: London to Venice
- Best time of the year to do it: March to November
The Venice Simplon Orient Express offers luxury rides through some of the most stunning landscapes in Europe. The train goes through the Swiss Alps, the Italian rural areas, and the French Riviera. The journey commences in London, then to the French countryside to Paris, and finally ends in Venice, Italy. The route covers a distance of 1,620 kilometers in 24 hours. The Venice Simplon Orient Express will stop beginning its journey in London after 2023. From 2024, the train will only operate between Paris and Venice, and passengers from London will still access it through Eurostar.
The Venice Simplon Orient Express offers you stylish and private sleeping cabins and luxury dining to allow you to enjoy every hour of your full-day travel. Besides the luxurious facilities, you also get amazing views of the European scenery, such as historic attractions, scenic villages, and rolling hills. The train has outstanding Art Deco themes and top-notch customer service standards. You can explore the three exquisite dining carriages and the dreamy champagne car with live piano music and drinks.
7. La Ligne des Cévennes, France
- Route: Clermont-Ferrand to Nîmes
- Best time of the year to do it: Mid-March to mid-June
La Ligne des Cévennes is France’s busiest, most spectacular, and second-longest train route. The journey is 304 km long and lasts six and a half hours. The line goes through several natural sceneries, such as valleys and gorges. The train starts at Clermont-Ferrand, rolls through a twisting line of 1000 bridges, 106 tunnels, and huge viaducts, and stops at Nîmes. Passengers can look forward to experiencing the thrill of crossing the curvy Chapeauroux Viaduct and Chamborigaud Viaduct, which are 433m and 409m, respectively.
Every twist and bend of this train line will have you surprised about the engineering work during the construction. Everything is breathtaking, from Chamborigaud’s 29 long-legged curves designed in a semicircular loop to the line’s highest point at La Bastide (1,023m). There are more amazing landscapes; the scenic rolling vineyards of the Auvergne, the stunning River Allier, and the chestnut forests of Cévennes National Park. Consider taking La Ligne des Cévennes during spring to witness the terrain’s eye-catching wildflowers in full bloom.
8. North York Moors Railway, England
- Route: Pickering to Whitby
- Best time of the year to do it: April to October
The North York Moors Railway line runs from the antique town of Pickering to Whitby, a popular destination for delightful seafood on the Yorkshire coast. The journey covers 38.6km and takes about one hour and 50 minutes. During the trip, the train stops at five stations: Lewisham station, Newtondale within a national park, Goathland, Grosmont, and finally, Whitby. Along the way, you can view a national park, the Hogsmeade Station in Harry Potter, and NYMR operating and engineering sheds. The train operates daily from April to October, one day in November, and during Christmas.
The North York Moors Railway journey will have you feeling nostalgic. The picturesque rolling scenery of the beautiful North Yorkshire Moors and the outstanding Pullman carriages used in Downton Abbey will leave you with lingering memories. Even though the NYMR trains lack modern facilities, the steam trains work conveniently. You can dine in transit and request goodies like flowers, chocolate, champagne, and fine wines. The railway has an annual ticket of £45 and is free for children with pass holders.
9. Brocken Railway, Germany
- Route: Drei Annen Hohne to Brockenbahnhof-set
- Best time of the year to do it: December to February
The Brocken Railway train departs from Harz National Park’s edge in Drei Annen-Hohne and stops at Brocken, the highest point in Northern Germany. The train travels at 40km/h covering 19 kilometres in about 50 minutes. The beautiful railway lets passengers view spectacular landscapes such as fir groves, pine forests, and stunning alpine fields. The train’s destination in Brockenbahnhof-set is 3,690 feet above sea level, so the journey is a climb through a stunning landscape.
If you take the Brocken Railway, expect to experience tight turns, snowy landscapes, and dramatic valleys. In the train, passengers sit in cozy carriages with bench-style seats, with each space accommodating two people. The train windows are operable, allowing you to breathe clean mountain air as the train climbs the line. The experience is quite nostalgic due to the steam engine noises, the clacking of the tracks, and the hissing of the engine.
10. Golden Eagle Danube Express, Turkey to Hungary
- Route: Istanbul (Turkey) to Budapest (Hungary) via Bulgaria and Romania
- Best time of the year to do it: May, October to January
The Golden Eagle Danube Express offers private and luxurious train rides from Istanbul, Turkey, to Budapest, Hungary. The 1,832km journey takes a week and begins in Istanbul. The train traverses to Bulgaria, ascends the wild, forested Carpathian Mountains, and then rushes through the wide Hungarian grasslands into Budapest.
The Golden Eagle Danube Express train allows passengers to explore some of the most scenic parts of Eastern Europe. It also allows them to experience the thrill of a luxurious hotel on wheels. You can order drinks and food from the first-class Bar Lounge car and the other two restaurant cars. There are numerous staff on board and cabin attendants to cater to the guests’ needs. The train has an amazing atmosphere with piano recitals and comfortable compartments with private bathrooms. Ensure you spend some time in the cocktail lounge socializing with fellow guests. You may meet new European train cruising partners.
Don’t forget your insurance
You should prioritize your health and safety before any travel escapades, even if they include hopping on the most iconic European trains. Consider getting comprehensive travel insurance.
Our Heymondo travel insurance guarantees you safety and security so that you focus on enjoying every bit of your trip. If you need medical help, you can use the 24/7 emergency call feature on our reliable Heymondo assistance app. Our travel insurance can cover up to $10.000.000 for medical emergencies. We also safeguard your belongings against theft or loss. Heymondo gives you confidence during your trip because we guarantee to take care of you when unforeseen risks occur. Choose Heymondo travel insurance for complete risk coverage and peace of mind.