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Top European Train Travel Destinations
Europe is a vast continent, and one of the best ways to explore it is by train. Thanks to its many high-speed lines, traveling by rail can be done quickly and easily.
The best European train journeys usually feature some stunning scenery, from mountains and streams, lakes and seas, to villages, castles and vineyards.
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France is home to medieval cities, alpine villages and Mediterranean beaches that can all be reached via train travel. From world-renowned high speed TGV trains to charming regional railway lines, there’s something for everyone in this country renowned for its culture, history and food.
Train travel in France is one of the best ways to experience this captivating country, which is renowned for its fashion houses, classical art museums and iconic monuments like the Eiffel Tower. Additionally, France is a major European powerhouse whose influence reaches far beyond its borders.
The French rail network is vast and intricate, offering everything from high-speed trains to slower regional lines – all of which require seat reservations for most journeys. Here are a few helpful tips to help plan your next trip by train:
Book online before you travel: This is usually the most economical option and will save you money from paying inflated fares at the station. The SNCF ticket booking website is accessible in English and many other languages, but for French tickets you may purchase them through local train travel specialists.
There are a range of train passes that can be used to get the best value for your train journeys in France, such as Interrail pass, Eurail pass and RailEurope (multilingual international booking website). With these passes you can purchase fixed-price single-journey tickets or multi-day tickets covering up to 7 days within one month and 10 or 15 days within two months.
If you need to switch your train during your journey, the Eurail pass can come in handy as it offers flexible ticket options for different European train types. Choose between day, week and month passes as well as first class and second class tickets if required.
France’s trains tend to be spacious, offering plenty of room for sitting or sleeping. Some even feature drop-down tables and power sockets at each seat, while others boast 4 or 6-bed cabins – ideal for long journeys!
Switzerland boasts an extensive and efficient rail network that makes commuting around the country a breeze. Whether you’re traveling as a family or on a budget, trains are an affordable way to take in some of Europe’s most stunning landscapes.
The Swiss Alps offer some of the world’s most scenic train rides, with trains like Glacier Express taking you through stunning alpine terrain with breathtaking views. The Bernina Express is another excellent train journey in Switzerland; a four-hour journey that crosses bridges and viaducts through Alpine meadows and traditional mountain villages.
Another must-see train route is the Luzern Interlaken Express, which winds its way through picturesque Switzerland. During its four-hour journey you’ll get stunning views of the Rhone Valley, Lake Constance and Swiss Alps.
Switzerland provides several train ticket options, such as point-to-point and multiple journey passes. Both provide unlimited travel throughout the country for a fixed number of days or weeks.
Supersaver Fares: For certain routes, these cheapest tickets can be purchased ahead of time online (refund restrictions apply). They usually cost half as much as full-price fares but you must buy them at least a few hours before your train leaves.
Regional Passes: These passes are ideal for time- and region-focused travel, making them a good option if you plan on staying put for an extended period or doing lots of exploring within one area. Although pricey (from 232 CHF for three consecutive days to 429 CHF for 15 consecutive days), regional passes could be worth considering for those wanting to cover the most ground quickly.
Swiss trains don’t require seat reservations, allowing you to come and go as often as desired. However, some panoramic tourist-oriented trains such as the Bernina Express and Golden Pass Panoramic Trains require reservations.
First-class train travel is available on most services in Switzerland, though prices vary. If you plan to do more than one or two train trips during your vacation, it may be worthwhile investing in a class upgrade as this can save you a considerable amount of money.
Norway boasts a comprehensive national railway network, making it easy for visitors to get around the country. Visitors are sure to encounter breathtaking landscapes while on their journey.
On your train journeys during the winter months, you can witness stunning white landscapes as you pass snow-capped mountains and fjords en route. It’s an experience that you won’t soon forget!
Norway’s railway system covers over 4,000km, featuring 775 tunnels and 3,000 bridges. It’s no surprise that this network has earned numerous accolades over the years.
Norway offers an array of train journeys, from international routes to domestic ones connecting smaller towns and villages. Plus, some world-renowned routes boast some of Europe’s most stunning views – like Bergen Railway or Flam Line.
Another route worth exploring is the Rauma Line, connecting Dombas to Andalsnes in Fjord Norway. This 114km journey winds through stunning Rauma Valley with mountain ranges and lakes as it passes.
Booking in advance for longer journeys is recommended, especially if you’re taking young children or elderly passengers with you. In Norway, seniors can get discounted train tickets (see our general tips for buying point-to-point tickets)).
If you’re planning any sightseeing while on the way to your destination, it’s wise to book a seat. Trains may not always be as comfortable as they appear – there are various categories of seats from Standard (Ordinaer) up through Plus.
For an additional fee, you can book a couchette, an extra bed in the same compartment that can be shared by two people. While not as luxurious as some of Europe’s sofa sleepers, this option remains viable for those who need limited space but don’t want to shell out full price for regular tickets.
The Republic of Croatia is a small but rapidly-developing country that has become an attractive tourist destination for European visitors. It’s renowned for its Mediterranean climate and stunning national parks.
Croatia has a population of just under 6 million people, with many living in urban areas. Some of the major cities include Zagreb, Split and Dubrovnik.
Croatia is a member of the European Union (EU) and an influential force within Euro-Atlantic institutions. It enjoys democratic, market-oriented conditions with strong ties to the United States.
Traveling by train in Croatia can be a wonderful way to explore the country. Trains are comfortable and well-run, while the scenery is stunning. Unfortunately, the Croatian railway network is quite small, with few routes connecting popular tourist spots.
Travelers wanting to explore Croatia have several bus options that can connect different areas. Bus tickets tend to be more cost-effective than train tickets, making them an attractive option.
Most train tickets in Croatia can be bought either online, at the ticket office at a train station or directly on board. A few train tickets may also be sold at airports, though this service is relatively new.
Croatia offers three main types of trains: InterCity, Nagibni and EuroCity. IC trains tend to be faster than standard passenger trains while EuroCity services provide more comfort.
Hrvatske zeljeznice (HZ Passenger Transport) operates Croatia’s national railways, which have some international connections. Additionally, there are a variety of local trains operating throughout the country.
For a comfortable daytime train journey from Zagreb to Split, Croatia, take the two daily routes that run this route all year round. Tickets cost EUR28 in 2nd class or EUR41 for 1st class and must be booked on the day of travel.
In summertime, there are also night trains. Tickets cost about EUR28 in 2nd class or EUR41 with dinner and beer included onboard.