Best Scenic Train Routes in Europe

montenegro express

If you’re a fan of scenic rail routes, you’ll be spoilt for choice in Europe. The continent will treat you to an array of spectacular scenery, from dramatic mountains to crystal clear lakes, through vast forests and along stunning rivers.

There are dozens of scenic train routes in Europe that have the potential to transform you into a serial rail addict, but here are 7 of the best:

1. Golden Pass, Switzerland

Switzerland serves up some of the most dramatic rail routes in the world, including the Golden Pass train that runs between Lucerne and Montreux. The Golden Pass offers the perfect view of a range of Swiss delights, including the Alps, pristine vineyards and lakes, small villages, and bigger cities.

Schedule: There are regular trains running along the Golden Pass line throughout the day. But for the best experience choose either the Golden Pass Classic or Golden Pass Panoramic trains which run less frequently.

Covered by the Rail Pass: Yes – no reservation necessary.

Highlights: Boarding the Golden Pass Classic train in Zweisimmen is a magical experience that will transport you to the forgotten era of rail travel.

2. Vienna, Austria to Ljubljana, Slovenia

This stunning rail journey links up two of Europe’s most beautiful capitals, and while there’s only one direct service per day, it’s well worth planning ahead for. The six-hour journey transports you through breathtaking scenery dotted with castles and mansions and alongside small towns and glistening lakes and rivers.

Schedule: There is one direct train daily from Vienna Meidling station that follows this route, which leaves at 8:05 am.

Covered by the Rail Pass: Yes – no reservation necessary.

Highlights: The pure natural beauty of this route is breathtaking, as are the two cities waiting for you on either side.

3. Rhine Valley, Germany

Germany has no shortage of scenic rail routes, but few are as celebrated as that which runs between Mainz and Koblenz along the Rhine Valley. The journey follows the famous Rhine River through vineyards, between mountains, and past dozens of castles and quaint picturesque towns.

Schedule: There are regular trains running in both directions every day.

Covered by the Rail Pass: Yes – no reservation necessary.

Highlights: The small riverside stations and quaint towns make for inviting pit stops, especially when combined with a glass of famous Rhine Riesling wine.

4. Semmering Line, Austria

Austria’s Semmering Line is a short but dramatic rail route that has earned UNESCO World Heritage Site status. This train journey is as scenically spectacular as it is hair-raising. The route takes you across stone bridges, through lengthy tunnels, and over dramatic viaducts.

Schedule: The main section of the Semmering Line runs between Wiener Neustadt to Bruck an der Mur. There are several daily trains between the two destinations.

Covered by the Rail Pass: Yes – no reservation necessary.

Highlights: While the natural beauty is astounding, the true appeal of this route lies in the bridges and structures that make it all possible.

5. Cinque Terre, Italy

Scenic train routes abound in Italy, and those that follow the country’s dramatic coastlines are among the most enjoyable. The train journey between Levanto and La Spezia is brief but beautiful, and it gives you a stunning vantage point of this dramatic corner of Italy.

Schedule: There are several trains running in both directions each day.

Covered by the Rail Pass: Yes – no reservation necessary.

Highlights: The small villages in the region are quaint and world famous, and perfect for a day’s rail-based exploring.

6. Belgrade, Serbia to Bar, Montenegro

The rail journey from Belgrade to Bar, also known as the Montenegro Express, is perhaps one of Europe’s most spectacular. This dramatic scenic route is also a marvel of engineering – it takes you across 435 bridges and through 254 tunnels on the way to the Adriatic.

Schedule: There are daily trains between the two cities, but many people choose to break the journey in Podgorica.

Covered by the Rail Pass: Yes – reservation optional.

Highlights: Break the breathtaking journey with an overnight stop in Podgorica – another famous city in Montenegro.

7. Inlandsbanan (Inland Line), Sweden

Scandinavia serves up some of Europe’s most impressive scenery. There are few better ways to experience this than on the rail route between Kristinehamn and Gällivare. This famous 14-hour long journey exposes you to stunning countryside, offers regular sightings of wildlife, and skirts the Arctic Circle.

Schedule: Trains run June to August and December to April.

Covered by the Rail Pass: Yes – reservation fee required.

Highlights: The real possibility of spotting moose and elk along the route is enough to help keep your eyes glued to the large windows.

Originally written for Eurail.com