Top European Rail Journeys

19 March 2013
Read Time: 2.2 mins

The majesty, the allure, the history; travelling by rail is certainly a wonderful way to explore different countries. But don't simply use a train to take you from one destination to another. Here at Flight Centre, we urge enthusiasts to savour the journey, to sit back and admire the view, and ultimately indulge in this time honoured form of transportation. And for unsurpassed indulgence, consider taking one of Europe's famed rail journeys.

Here are our top five most scenic European railway journeys.

Switzerland Rail Travel by Rail in Switzerland

Bernina Express - Switzerland and Italy
Don't be fooled by the name; the Bernina Express is anything but a rapid-fire jaunt through the spectacular Swiss Alps. The 'express' is an archaic reference to the fact seat reservations are required but given the volume of tourists eager to enjoy its wondrous sights, that's not such a bad thing. Starting in Switzerland's oldest town Chur and winding its way through the mountains, the Bernina Express ultimately terminates in the Italian town of Tirano. Between the two towns you can enjoy some of Europe's most spectacular mountain scenery as the train climbs and spirals its way past crystalline lakes, spectacular mountain gorges and dense pine forests - all from the comfort of cabins boasting panoramic picture windows.

The Flåm Line - Norway
The steepest standard gauge railway line in Europe, Norway's spectacular Flåm Line takes passengers from the tiny village of Myrdal past snow-capped mountains, cascading waterfalls and rivers which slice through lush green ravines to the tourist town of Flåm a dizzying 865 metres below. Once a vital connection to the Aurlandsfjord in what is some of Norway's most rugged mountain country, these days the line serves only the thousands of tourists who flock to enjoy its spectacular scenery . But with such astonishing views on offer, it's not hard to see why.

West Highland Line - Scotland
Rugged, remote and hauntingly desolate, Scotland's legendary West Highland Line links the country's largest city Glasgow with the port towns of Mallaig and Oban. Departing from Glasgow's busy Queen Street Station, the train trundles through the city's outer suburbs before reaching Garelochhead and what many regard as the start the West Highland Line proper. From here, the train traverses Loch Lomond and glides over the bleak Rannoch Moor, before passing over the astonishing Glenfinnan Viaduct in the heart of the Highlands. The train terminates at either Mallaig or Oban, both of which are scenic towns in their own right. However the main attraction is the journey itself and the West Highland Line is regularly voted one of the most scenic railways in the world.

West Rhine Railway- Germany
A famously scenic 185-kilometre stretch of track between major German cities Cologne and Mainz, the West Rhine Railway meanders along the left band of the Rhine River in western Germany. While the stretch is pleasantly picturesque between Cologne and Koblenz - which lies of the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers - it's between Koblenz and the town of Bingen that the West Rhine Railway really shines. Here you'll find crumbling castle ruins, storybook riverside villages and the legendary Lorelei - a 120-metre tall rock on the eastern bank near St. Goarhausen. According to folklore, a golden-haired maiden sits atop the rock combing her hair and luring unwary ship captains towards the rocky shores beneath.

The Yellow Train - France
Trundling between Villefranche-de-Conflent through to Mont-Louis in France, the Ligne de Cerdagne, or 'Yellow Train' as it's more commonly known may be French-based but it's very much a Catalan institution. The 63-kilometre route lies just across the border from Spain and climbs some of the highest peaks in the Pyrenees. Taking its colour-scheme (and name) from the colours of the Catalan flag, the train boasts popular open-car carriages for those looking to breathe in the fresh mountain air and soak up the scenery of one of France's most spectacular rail journeys.

Mike Tuckerman

From Europe to Asia and many places in between, there's rarely a town or city I've not enjoyed exploring. When I'm not wandering the streets and discovering new destinations, you can usually find me hanging out with the locals at major sporting events.