Convenient, comfortable and by far the greenest transport mode, trains offer value and variety for holiday makers of all ages.
battleface checks out some popular and affordable single-day train journeys in Europe as railway trips come roaring back in vogue.
Switzerland – Zermatt to St. Moritz
The rail service from Zermatt to St. Moritz is dubbed ‘the Glacier Express’ and ticks all the boxes for stylish travel, outstanding onboard service and breath-taking landscapes throughout its 8-hour, 291 km journey. Crossing the cantons of Valais, Uri and Graubünden at a leisurely speed of 50km/hr, Switzerland’s most glamourous train ride is equally famous for its culinary and wine selections making the experience extremely popular and requiring advance booking to ensure a seat. Fares start at €155.
Scotland – Fort William to Mallaig
Stepping aboard The Jacobite is like stepping back in time to the heyday of steam engine travel. From its starting point near Ben Nevis, (which is Britain’s highest peak) the 135km round trip takes passengers past beautiful villages, lochs, rivers and over the 21-arched bridge of Glenfinnan – a location many will recognise from Harry Potter movies with The Jacobite renamed Hogwarts Express. Services run twice daily with full fare tickets as little as €65.
Norway – Oslo to Bergen
The scenery from a comfortable seat on the 6.5-hour train ride from Oslo to Bergen will only cost €65 and includes having your breath taken away by the scenery – which is what you’d expect rolling through the Norwegian hinterland. Awe-inspiring views promise passengers a spectacle of fast-flowing rivers, majestic fjords, dramatic peaks and colourful villages that line the route start to end. In sections the train hits a top speed of 200km/h while in others it slows to climb up to 1200m above sea level where the snow and ice keep a permanent grip on the landscape.
Spain – Palma to Sóller
The train that links Majorca’s capital to the northern city of Sóller was built in the early 1900s and was first used to transport oranges. A century onwards and the train is now electric but the wooden and brass fitted carriages remain authentic to the line’s history with the cargo of citrus swapped with hundreds of thousands of tourists and locals who pay €50 for one of Spain’s best day-trip adventures. The journey to Sóller only takes an hour with most passengers swapping to the heritage tram to get down to the coast and swim before the return leg.
Germany – The Brocken
The Brockenbahn is another famous stretch of European rail that pays homage to past days of 19th century glory. Refurbished steam engines climb from the base to the Brocken station, depositing passengers only 50m from the summit of the highest peak in Northern Germany for €51 return. This journey is all about the slow and steady climb and tight turns that snake up a mountain that dominates the Harz National Park. The train is particularly popular with hikers who use it to start or end their walking route.
Wales – Blaenau Ffestiniog to Porthmadog
The steam railway that connects the small town of Blaenau Ffestiniog to the port of Porthmadog gives passengers a glimpse of all that makes the Welsh countryside so magnificent. Though Blaenau Ffestiniog has fallen on challenging times with the collapse of its mining industry, the reliable train service refuses to buckle and as its owned by the oldest independent railway company on the planet, there’s even more to cheer for a small town’s survival and its place in Europe’s railway history. An adult return ticket on this celebrated ride is only €45 with plenty of villages to stop and explore en route if you’re not in a hurry.
Austria – Semmering Bahn
Afficionados of the railway journey between Semmering and Glognitz get two distinct experiences from this train line. The first is to be awestruck by the beauty of the landscape with the bonus being the jaw-dropping wonder of the engineering feats and labour that created the railway line. Over 20,000 workers hacked and carved the mountains to lay this line between 1848 and 1854 creating Europe’s first alpine railway. The construction features 14 tunnels, 16 viaducts and over 100 stone bridges in just 41km of track between the towns. In 1998 the Semmering Bahn was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. A one-way adult fare starts from as little as €5.
France – La Rhune
The Petit train de la Rhune is the pride of France’s Basque railways at the Western end of the Pyrenees. The original 1924 engines and carriages carry passengers 905m to the summit of La Rhune between April and September. The rewards at the top of the mountain that sits on the France/Spain border are the coastal views from San Sebastian to Biarritz and panoramic vistas of the Pyrenees. The train shuttles between Col de Saint Ignace and La Rhune every 4 hours. Tickets cost €14 and the journey takes 35 minutes.