Where to go on a Europe
railway holiday

Few places in Europe are unreachable by rail. Train tracks stretch from the Lappish tundra and Norwegian fjords in the north to the fairer climes of Sicily and Athens. Fast trains zip between cities, so it’s only a 2.5-hour journey from London to Paris and 3.5 hours between Helsinki and St Petersburg, while the overnight “train hotel” leaves Madrid after dinner and arrives in Lisbon in time for breakfast. Slower branch lines make the countryside accessible, with trains ambling through mountain villages and fishing harbours. The end of the line doesn’t have to mean the end of your adventure. You might wind up at a port where ferries scooch over to the Outer Hebrides, Greek Islands or Morocco.
The Balkans

1. The Balkans

Ride the Bar to Belgrade line from Montenegro to Serbia for dramatic gorges and turquoise lakes. You’ll cross the Mala Rijeka Viaduct – one of the highest railway bridges in the world. You can also spend the day trundling between Sarajevo and Mostar, learning about the impact of the Bosnian War from a local tour guide. Ljubljana, the leafy capital city of Slovenia, is a good starting point.

2. Ireland

In Ireland, you can travel by train between waterside cities like Dublin, Cork and Galway, where pubs overflow with live music and great craic. From Galway, ferries ship you over to the Arran Islands and you can hike the Wild Atlantic Way. Roll on to explore the sandy surf around Sligo, before border-hopping to Belfast in Northern Ireland.

3. Lapland

Yep, trains plough on past the Arctic Circle to Lapland. Catch the sleeper train from Helsinki to the port city of Kemi, where you can explore the pretty waterfront and candyfloss-pink Lutheran church. Then hop on the train to Rovaniemi – less than two hours away by rail. This city is your springboard to the Sami communities, forested national parks and Northern Lights beyond.

4. Russia

The Trans Siberian Express is your ticket to exploring some of the most remote regions of Russia – all the way from Moscow to Vladivostok on the border of China. At 9,250km long, it’s an adventure in its truest form, complete with constantly changing train companions, food and Siberian scenes. Stay by Lake Baikal or in Kazan city, or extend your journey by transferring to the Trans Mongolian.

5. Switzerland

Switzerland has the best train network in the world – and it’s 99 percent electric. It’s easy to sweep from Zurich to lovely Lucerne and past turquoise lakes in adventurous Interlaken. The mountain trains are a splash of scarlet against the green meadows and snow, climbing as high as Jungfraujoch – the highest train station in Europe (3,463m)… and with glacier views to boot.

6. UK

Almost every corner of the UK has a train station, from Cornish fishing villages to the lochs of Scotland. All manner of cities lies in-between – London and Liverpool; Bristol and Edinburgh – but you can also reach Welsh mountaintops, Sussex valley villages, Yorkshire moors and long-distance footpaths without ever getting behind the wheel.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Europe railway or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Europe railway holidays travel tips

We spoke with our rail travel partners to see what tips and tricks they’d share with travellers considering a railway holiday in Europe.
Robert Kidd, director of our partner McKinley Kidd, shares his top tips for rail travel in Scotland: “The Caledonian Sleeper service is wonderfully romantic, but actually if you want to sleep it isn’t that great. However, it is fantastic leaving London late at night and then waking up in the wilds of Scotland…. My top survival tip is: don’t bring so much luggage! We meet guests at each station, but you do need to be able to get your bag off a train and onto the platform… Sadly the food and drink on the trains are not great, so it is always good to bring your own snacks.”
Scott Batchelor, from our partner Euroventure, reveals why he decided to ditch planes for trains when travelling in Europe: “Not only are you doing a good thing for the environment by taking a public mode of transport with lower emissions, but you are getting a genuinely more positive experience out of travelling… Some people think, ‘Oh, there’s no way I want to be messed about with a train cancellation if I was in the middle in Sweden.’ In reality, you would very rarely have to deal with something like that, and if you did the customer service really backs it up... So it’s still very, very easy if things do go wrong.”
Rachel Wasser, from our partner G Adventures, has some trips for travelling on night trains in Europe: “Pack a quick-dry face towel for the trains as it helps you stay feeling fresh. A head torch is useful for finding your way around or reading in bed. Slip-on sandals are great for wandering around. Earplugs and toilet paper are essential! Pack everything you will need for the journey in a day pack so you can stow your large luggage somewhere out of sight and you won’t have to dig around for anything. Bring lots of books and playing cards. A reusable mug and camping cutlery are also must-haves. Most trains provide boiled water, so pick up some hot chocolate packets, instant mashed potatoes or Pot Noodles, and you’re good to go.

“My main piece of advice is to explore. Don’t lock yourself in your cabin and just emerge at the next destination. Wander the train, hang out in the dining car – some of my best stories are from meeting friendly locals in the dining car. Mostly, just enjoy the ride!”
Petr Ivanek, from our partner Slovakia Explorer, says train travel is popular with his guests because it’s easy: “Ninety-nine percent of our guests use fast trains from Bratislava. The fastest trains get to the Tatra Mountains in about three hours. It’s a nice scenic journey as well, and it is part of the adventure. You spend a couple of days in the High Tatras – taking cable car to Lominsky Peak, the ‘roof of Slovakia’ (the views you get from there are amazing) – then you return to Bratislava… It’s gently adventurous, so anyone can take part.”
Sam Sagar, from our partner Euroventure, recommends touring Central Europe by train: “The countryside in Hungary is really nice as you come in by train. A lot of people come in from Vienna or potentially Prague – it’s very scenic. Coming in by train lets you take all this in. Budapest is probably one of the standouts. Train travel is quite efficient when you’re there… there are three main stations. Nyugati, which connects Budapest to Prague and Warsaw. And Keleti, which connects Budapest to trains from Vienna and other cities within Hungary… You can tick two or three places off in one trip.”
Photo credits: [Page banner: Lukas Mathis] [The Balkans: VinceTraveller] [Ireland: K. Mitch Hodge] [Russia: Sergey Pesterev] [Switzerland: Miroslav Volek] [UK: Sykes Cottages] [Caledonian Sleeper: Train Photos] [Tastras Mountains: Jan Helebrant]