Indulging in the Art of Slow Travel: 10 Serene European Train Rides

If given one transport method to enjoy the rest of my life, I would favor the train over anything. For me, trains deliver a haven of relaxation that no other vehicle allows. Here are ten slow-moving train rides you can enjoy throughout Europe.

1. The Orient Express: England to Italy

Famous Orient Express long distance passenger train stopped in Bucharest central train station.
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The Orient Express still captures the imagination like no other train ride. Not only is this route famous for its presence in murder mysteries, but it provides the tourist with a luxury experience as it winds through some of Europe’s most breathtaking passes — the French Riviera, the Swiss Alps, and the timeless Italian countryside. This journey begins in London, journeying nearly 1,000 miles before terminating in Venice.

2. The Bergen Railway, Norway

Train Oslo - Bergen in mountains. Norway.
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Norway doesn’t do gentle countryside; instead, the country spoils its visitors with endless, mindblowing scenery. This dramatic seven-hour voyage starts in Oslo, Norway’s southern capital, and ends in Bergen in the west coast fjordlands. The route involves epic fjordlands, glaciers, and Europe’s most elevated mountain plateau. Moreover, an optional bonus is the Flåm Railway, a detour into one of the steepest fjords in the world.

3. The Salzkammergut Railway, Austria

SCHAFBERG, AUSTRIA - AUGUST 3, 2022: People ride the Schafbergbahn steam train to the top of mount Schafberg in Salzkammergut region of Austria. It is a metre gauge cog railway.
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Austria doesn’t get nearly the same level of publicity as other Alps locations, as it sits in its more famous French, Swiss, and Italian regions’ shadows. However, those who wish to experience this stunning mountain nation will find no better way than on the Salzkammergut Railway. This route begins in Stainach-Irdning and finishes in Attnang Puchheim, taking in fairytale mountain villages, Austria’s Lake District, and insane mountain passes.

4. The West Highlands Line, Scotland

One of the world's great railway journeys running on the West Highland Line in Scotland between Fort William and Mallaig.
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Harry Potter fans will love this rail journey due to its connection to the legendary movie series. The Glenfinnan viaduct, a familiar landmark in all the movies, is worth the journey alone. Passengers will ride through several national parks, mountain ranges, forests, and Highland townships for four hours; those who take the full journey can get off at Mallaig, an otherworldly Hebridean fishing village. This journey begins in Glasgow and takes in the highest of Scotland’s mountain ranges.

5. The Douro Valley Line, Portugal

historic train on a bridge of the douro line in the middle of the port wine vineyards
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Portugal is Europe’s answer to California, a long, coast-hugging territory with incredible wine, food, and personality, making it one of the continent’s most relaxed countries. If vineyards, terraced agricultural terrain, or white and blue ceramic-tiled whitewashed hilltowns appeal to you, the Porto to Pocinho line takes passengers along the Douro Valley, famous for its excellent wine products.

6. The Glacier Express, Switzerland

Tourists ride a Glacier Express on Matterhorn Gotthard Railway on a brisk fall day, enjoying the view thru panoramic windows of the snowy mountains under blue clear sky, in Andermatt, Uri, Switzerland
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The French, German, and Italian confederation sits atop some of Europe’s most breathtaking mountain vistas; naturally, it makes a second appearance here. The Glacier Express has panoramic windows on the sides and roof of each luxurious cabin, perfect for enjoying the 291 bridges, 91 tunnels, and eight hours of spectacular Swiss postcard vistas. Moreover, if choosing “Excellence Class,” passengers can enjoy their luxury five-course menu paired with Swiss and French wines from this privileged vantage point.

7. Cinque Terre Express, Italy

Amazing View Of Vernazza - Cinque Terre, La Spezia Province, Liguria Region, Italy, Europe
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Italy has arguably the most dramatic coastline in the world. Its long, mountainous spine is flanked on all sides by the ocean, giving incredible perspectives for any photographer. Leaving La Spezia (nearest major city: Pisa), this train winds through Cinque Terre National Park on the western coast. The Cinque Terre Express is a shorter journey, so set your camera shutter speed on fast to catch the turquoise lagoons and multi-colored villages nestling among the rugged coastal cliffs.

8. Belgrade Bar Railway, Montenegro

BELGRADE, SERBIA - MARCH 20, 2022: Logo of Srbija Voz, the serbian railways company, on a couchette sleeper car wagon ready for an overnight train from belgrade to bar, Serbia to Montenegro.
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Although this train journey is spectacular, passengers must remember to book the correct side of the train for each leg. When heading south, one mustn’t choose the left side of the carriage; likewise, for the northern leg on the right. Otherwise, they will miss the hair-raising plunges into canyons, mountain passes, and river gorges — especially the stunning Biogradska National Park. Furthermore, this journey takes eleven hours, so entertainment is advised if traveling with kids.

9. El Transcantábrico Gran Lujo, Spain

Man traveling in train
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Being a Spanish resident and a huge fan of this country’s rich landscape, I feel divided on recommending Northern Spain — I don’t like sharing. However, I concede I would be happy to see anyone discover Spain’s best-kept secret, so why not do it in style? This epic, luxury train experience spans 416 miles through seven overnight legs between San Sebastian in the east to Santiago de Compostela on Spain’s northwesternmost point. With the Cantabrian Mountains on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other, this journey takes in everything — rich Spanish history and food with stops in wonderful, modern Costa Verde cities and stunning mountain towns.

10. The Black Forest Railway, Germany

Train at a mountain lake - Spa town Schluchsee in the Black Forest, Germany
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Bavaria is like a picture-perfect fairytale to some people; for locals, it is just their home. However, the best way to take it all in is on the Black Forest Railway, which begins its three-hour odyssey in midwestern Offenburg before snaking through 93 miles of luscious, unspoiled Bavarian forest. Of course, visiting during the fall will bring the passenger into a vibrant, golden journey that will give the Appalachians competition. The Baden route is the most popular, though there are many others to choose from.

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