For outstanding views, an air of nostalgia and an utterly relaxing and delightful way to travel, nothing beats train holidays.
What makes train holidays in Europe so special is that they make the ‘getting there’ part of your trip an experience in its own right: consider it a trip about the journey, not the destination.
They can be as laid-back or adventurous as you like too – and not forgetting that train holidays are perfect for romantic breaks. You can sit back together and watch as the ever-changing scenery passes by, travelling through tunnels, over historic bridges and past impressive lakes.
While the Orient Express and the Rocky Mountaineer are known as some of the most luxurious train journeys in the world and can be out of reach for many travellers, there are rail tours where the views are as magical and for a fraction of the price.
Whether you’re dreaming of train holidays in the UK or the train holidays Europe has to offer, such as a ride through Switzerland’s glorious Alpine scenery, these once-in-a-lifetime train holidays cost less than you’d expect for an unforgettable escape…
Glide from Italy to Switzerland on the Bernina Express
For Alpine scenery straight out of a postcard, look no further than UNESCO-listed panoramic train holiday that is the Bernina Express, which takes you through some of Europe’s most wonderful landscapes. Departing from Tirano, you’ll travel up to St Moritz on a fascinating train ride.
Highlights include rolling over the UNESCO-protected Landwasser Viaduct and the Montebello Curve, which offers a view of the Bernina massif, the Morteratsch glacier and the three lakes of Pitschen, Nair and Bianco.
The highest point on the railway journey is 2,253 metres above sea level, where you will find the Ospizio Bernina, a station that lies on the shores of the Lago di Bianco.
Ride the Jacobite through the Scottish Highlands like Harry Potter
You don’t have to be a wizard to experience the magic of the Scottish Highlands like Harry and his friends. This stunning part of Britain is not only more beautiful in real life, but it’s right on our doorstep and you can experience it up close on one of the world’s best train holidays.
Taking you from Fort William to Mallaig, the Jacobite Steam Train has been described as the greatest railway journey in the world. Its lucky riders enjoy an 84-mile round trip which starts in the Highlands’ largest town Fort William, passes close to the deepest freshwater loch in Britain Loch Morar and crosses the 21-arch Glenfinnan Viaduct (just like the Hogwarts Express).
Once you arrive in your Mallaig, you have over an hour to explore the picturesque port town before the return journey and may wish to sample the area’s fish and chips, crab sandwiches or freshly landed lobster.
Take a magical ride on the Glacier Express
Few winter trips are as unforgettable as Switzerland’s Glacier Express, which is like riding through a winter wonderland as you pass snowy peaks, dramatic ravines and pretty villages.
Boarding the iconic red train at Chur, you’ll enjoy panoramic views from the large windows, soaking up fantastical landscapes. After inching your way up into the Oberalp Pass, the highest point of the route at 2,033 metres, you’ll then descend to the Rhône Valley and stop at Brig.
During the journey, you’ll be served a three-course lunch and can take in the journey at a relaxed relaxing speed – after all, this is the slowest express train in the world.
Enjoy Wales’ best view from the Snowdon Mountain Railway
Lifting passengers 1,085 metres above sea level for a relaxing ride up to England and Wales’ highest peak, the Snowdon Mountain Railway is a gem of a train ride in the UK. Departing from Llanberis, the heritage steam train passes over the beautiful Afon Hwch river, where you’ll spot the Ceunant Mawr Waterfall plunging into the gorge below.
You’ll soon get a first glimpse of Snowdon’s distant summit and as you climb higher, the views become even more breathtaking. Reaching Halfway Station, you’ll see walkers down on the Llanberis Path and Moel Cynghorion rising on the far side.
The train journey also takes in the dramatic Rocky Valley and Clogwyn Station. From the summit of Mount Snowdon you can expect to drink in the views, once described as the best in Britain, which allow you to see as far as Ireland on a clear day.
Explore the scenic beauty of Austria’s lakes and mountains
If you love Europe’s natural scenery, you must visit Austria where clean mountain air and glistening lakes await. One of the most splendid ways to experience its alpine countryside is by steam train as you sit back, relax and watch the landscapes roll by as you ride the Wendelstein Rack Railway, Achensee Railway and Zillertal Railway.
As you roll through the Ziller Valley in Austria’s Tyrol region, you can discover the charming town of Kufstein and sample hearty Tyrolean cuisine.
There are many opportunities for getting active on an Austrian train holiday too, with hiking in the mountains surrounding the village of Uderns, visits to Krimml Waterfalls and trips to the towns and cities of Kitzbuhel, Innsbruck and Rattenburg.
Roll through Norfolk’s breathtaking countryside on its steam trains
Home to royal attractions, beautiful wildlife and varied natural scenes – from beaches to broads – Norfolk is a must-see destination and you won’t find a better way to explore it than on one of the UK’s best train holidays.
The Bittern Line, Poppy Line, Bure Valley Railway and Mid-Norfolk Railway offer a relaxing way to take in the county as you visit villages like Wroxham and Horning, browse the Sandringham Estate and stop for a cruise through the Norfolk Broads.
You won’t want to miss a visit to 17th-century country house Felbrigg Hall, either. The Jacobean beauty is home to a walled garden, orchards and an orangery.