Ever heard the saying, it’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey? Cheesy, it may well be, but when it comes to scenic train rides, that really is the case. Scenic train journeys in Europe are legendary, known for their romantic, bourgeois reputation and spectacular views – but not all trains are created equal. There are some rail journeys that carry you through majestic mountainous landscapes, past infamous peaks and glistening lakes, or over iconic bridges in scenes akin to Harry Potter on the Hogwarts Express. And then, there’s the 7:05 from Stetchford…
We got together with Deuter, to celebrate the launch of the new Aviant Access Pro backpack, which would be the perfect companion for those hoping to experience the vistas of Europe via rail. It offers all the benefits of a suitcase, rolled into the form of a backpack, perfect for travelling to a number of different destinations in one trip. Get yours here, or read on to discover the most scenic train journeys on the continent.
West Highland Line, Scotland
Considered by rail aficionados to be one of the finest and most scenic train journeys of the world, let alone Europe, the West Highland Line’s reputation precedes it. If you’re here because you never quite recovered from the very first Hogwarts Express wide angle shot from Harry Potter, we don’t blame you. Gliding over the Glenfinnan Viaduct (as featured in the films) is true magic indeed.
You can board the train at Glasgow, or Scotland’s adventure capital in Fort William, and ride past legend-soaked lochs and mystical moors to reach the final stop in Mallaig, where the Isle of Skye and its magnificent Cuillin Ridge is just a short ferry ride away. For extra Potter points, ride the steam-driven Jacobite, which puffs along the same route once a day in the summer months.
Cinque Terre Train, Italy
As scenic train journeys go, they don’t get much more quintessentially Italian than this one. You may have heard of the Cinque Terre hiking trail, that links five impossibly picturesque Italian towns, all of which cling to the cliffside as though in danger of falling into the azure water below. Well, the train is your equally scenic although less strenuous option. It’s also the ideal way to get back to your start point after hiking the route in one direction, as you continue to soak up the sensational views.
The line only has six stops; La Spezia, the main transport hub for the Cinque Terre area, and the five towns; Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. Get yourself a Cinque Terre railcard and you can hop on and off as you please, exploring the hiking trails lined with lemon groves at your leisure.
No list of scenic train journeys in Europe could possibly be complete without a mention of Switzerland, the country known for public transport punctuality and stand-out views. Chug from Kleine Scheidegg all the way up to the highest railway station in Europe at Jungfraujoch where you can disembark onto a viewing platform and observe the almighty trio that is the Eiger, the Mönch, and the Jungfrau. In fact, the train itself travels upwards through a tunnel, built within the Eiger and Mönch mountains, with two internal stations featuring windows built into the notorious north face of the Eiger.
While most of the journey is taken underground, emerging into the dazzling vistas at Jungfraujoch after the tunnel from Eigergletscher is a moment you won’t forget in a hurry. The journey makes a great day trip for those exploring the area’s world-class trails and mountains.
The Centovalli Railway, Italy to Switzerland
The Centovalli Railway connects Domodossola in Italy to Locarno in Switzerland and is also sometimes known as the Domodossola–Locarno railway, although we prefer Centovalli, which translates to ‘100 Valleys’ in relation to the mind-boggling views. You can ride either the panoramic windowed Treno Panoramico Vigezzo Vision, which even has a special seat next to the driver for photographers, or the Centovalli Express, which is a little less touristy but still with the same great views.
Be mesmerised by flowing falls, vast vineyards and a veritable feast of chocolate-box villages rolling past your window on the two-hour journey through the mountains, crossing many beautiful viaducts along the way.
The Flam Railway, Norway
Don’t let the name put you off, this railway line features some of the finest scenery in Norway, from the tributaries of a fjord to thundering waterfalls and snow-laden peaks. It winds through the Flam Valley from sea level at the Sognefjord up to the Myrdal mountain station at 867m above sea level. As well as being one of the most scenic train journeys in Europe, this also makes it one of the steepest (built on regular tracks).
As it snakes through the glacially shaped rock formations, take your opportunity to soak in the panoramic views from the comfort of your cabin. Each stop along the route offers something unique to explore, such as the gushing falls at Kjosfossen, just metres from the track, or the deep ravine situated beneath Berekvam.
The Glacier Express, Switzerland
This is the iconic scenic train ride to end them all, with vast panoramic windows from which you can ogle the views as you glide past glaciers between the chic ski resorts of Zermatt and St. Moritz. With a restaurant on board serving three course meals and delectable wines from the mountains themselves, this is the place to live out your Golden Era of Locomotive dreams, preferably with a glass of champagne in hand.
The eight-hour journey is certainly not ‘express’ by any means, but this slow and peaceful one-stop crossing provides ample time to soak up the incredible views. You’ll snake through 91 tunnels and cross over 291 epic bridges, flanked by vast pastures that are either smothered with snow or crowded with wildflowers. Top tip, if you can’t afford the hefty price tag, there’s a regular train that uses the same route, just minus the panoramic windows and fancy food.
Arlberg Line, Austria
Traverse through the heart of Tyrol with one of Europe’s great scenic train journeys that has been in operation since 1883. The Arlberg Line passes by some of Austria’s most picture-perfect villages, through lush green pastures from Innsbruck to Blundez via countless viaducts and tunnels.
Don’t miss the impressive Trisanna Bridge and nearby Weisberg castle as you’re taking in the views from the comfort of your seat. Those in first class and above will even have food served directly to their seat, so you don’t have to take your eyes off the views for a second – and certain services also include a panorama carriage.
What to take on scenic train journeys in Europe
Taking a ride on one of the most scenic train journeys in Europe is likely to be incorporated as part of a larger tour, and rightly so. Rail is by far the easiest and most scenic way to get around Europe, especially in the mountains as you hop from one adventure to the next.
For any European rail travel adventures, we recommend Deuter’s new Aviant Access Pro backpack, which comes in various sizes to suit your travel needs.
Hopping on and off trains and finding a space for your backpack couldn’t be easier, with multiple carry-ways and comfortable backpack straps which can be easily stashed away when not in use.
There’s also a detachable daypack, stabiliser straps, suitcase-style opening and even compression straps and lockable sliders, so you can be sure your stuff stays safe and secure. Get yours here.