There are so many scenic train rides in Europe that whittling this list down to just 15 of the best was no mean feat. These picture-perfect rail trips encourage you to take it slow and savour the journey.
And since they’re not on high-speed lines, they’re accessible FREE or with a small reservation fee with an Interrail Pass or Eurail Pass. Which means you can save some Euros to splash in the many marvellous destinations they serve.
Are you ready? Great, let’s buckle up, relax and dive in for a rollicking rollercoaster through some of Europe’s most beautiful scenic railways.
15 Most Scenic Train Journeys In Europe & How To Ride Them – Quick Links
- West Highland Line: Glasgow to Mallaig (Britain)
- Centovalli Railway: Locarno to Domodossola (Switzerland & Italy)
- Cevenol Gorges Railway: Langogne to Langeac (France)
- Berlin to Prague Line: Berlin to Prague (Germany & Czech Republic)
- Mr Henderson’s Railway: Algeciras to Ronda (Spain)
- The Flam Railway (Flamsbana): Myrdal to Flam (Norway)
- Douro Valley Line (Linha do Douro): Porto to Pocinho (Portugal)
- The Inland Train (The Inlandsbanan): Kristinehamn to Gallivare (Sweden)
- Belgrade-Bar Railway: Belgrade to Bar (Serbia & Montenegro)
- The Prahova Valley: Ploiesti to Brasov (Romania)
- Septemvri-Dobrinishte: Dobrinishte to Septemvri (Bulgaria)
- Dublin to Rosslare Railway: Dublin to Rosslare (Ireland)
- Bernina Express: Chur to Tirano (Switzerland & Italy)
- Rhine Valley Line: Mainz to Koblenz (Germany)
- Arlberg Line: Innsbruck to Bludenz (Austria)
1. West Highland Line: Glasgow to Mallaig (Britain)
One of the most scenic train journeys in Europe starts in the UK. Beginning from the former shipyards of the Clyde Estuary, the West Highland Line soon pitches you through wooded glens. Onwards it rides alongside Britain’s most extensive stretch of inland water, Loch Lomond.
The iconic Scottish highland landscape starts to turn more barren and boggy around Ardlui. The journey then unfolds into the stark wilderness and beauty of Rannoch Moor.
After passing through the Highland’s largest town, the outdoor activity hub of Fort William, get ready with your camera to snap the Glenfinnan Viaduct, made famous by the Harry Potter films. While passing over the viaduct, marvel at the breathtaking scenery of Loch Shiel and the surrounding mountains.
You’ll wind up at the end of the West Highland Line on the harbour shores of Mallaig. This picturesque seaside town is a jumping-off point to Skye and many others of the Western Isles.
The scenic West Highland Line also makes our list of romantic train journeys in Britain.
How to Ride the West Highland Line Train from Glasgow to Mallaig
The regular train journey from Glasgow Queen Street to Mallaig takes approx 5 hours and 30 minutes. The shorter leg from Fort William to Mallaig on the Jacobite Steam Train ‘Hogwarts Express’ takes approx 2 hours.
Travel the West Highland Line with:
Seat reservations are optional on West Highland Line trains. Book train tickets in advance with Scotrail from Glasgow Queen Street to Mallaig.
Or, travel the West Highland Line on the overnight train between London and Fort William. Find out how to get cheap tickets with Caledonian Sleeper discount offers.
Travel for FREE with optional seat reservations with:
Tours and Holidays
Seven tours and mini breaks from Viator include travelling the shorter West Highland Line leg from Fort William to Mallaig. Travel in style on Scotland’s Harry Potter famed ‘Hogwarts Express’ Jacobite Steam Train.
- 2-Day Jacobite Experience including the Hogwarts Express
- 3-Day Isle of Skye and Scottish Highlands Tour from Edinburgh Including ‘Hogwarts Express’ Ride
- 5-Day Best of Scotland Experience from Edinburgh
- 5-Day Best of Scotland Experience from Glasgow
- 5-Day Isle of Skye, Loch Ness and the Jacobite Steam Train from Edinburgh
- 7-Day Orkney, Skye and Highlands Tour from Edinburgh
- 8-Day Hebrides Skye and Highlands Tour from Edinburgh
Great Rail Journeys train holidays also include the Jacobite Steam Train leg. You can also travel on the whole or others parts of the West Highland Line. Rail Discoveries have holidays that incorporate both the Jacobite Steam Train and the West Highland Line.
2. Centovalli Railway: Locarno to Domodossola (Switzerland & Italy)
An express train in name alone, this little white narrow-gauge train clacks its way leisurely across 83 bridges and through 34 tunnels across the Centovalli (the Hundred Valleys) region. Many viaducts pass high over deep, densely wooded ravines strewn with jagged rocks and waterfalls.
The train makes occasional stops on both sides of the Swiss and Italian border at tiny mountain villages and hiking points before terminating at Domodossola. This medieval pilgrimage houses a fascinating museum about the history and construction of the Simplon Railway Tunnel.
Enjoy one of Europe’s most scenic train rides all year round with panoramic carriages designed for viewing.
How to Ride the Centovalli Railway from Locarno to Domodossola
Trains from Locarno to Domodossola take approx 2 hours. Travel the narrow-gauge Centovalli Railway with:
Travel for FREE with no reservation fees with:
Buy Centovalli Railway tickets in advance from Trainline or SBS.
Tours and Holidays
Great Rail Journeys and Rail Discoveries holidays include the Centovalli Railway and the surrounding Alps.
3. Cevenol Gorges Railway: Langogne to Langeac (France)
One of southern France’s most beautiful stretches of rail can be enjoyed either as a regular SNCF service or a scenic tourist train. This section is part of a longer route between Nimes and Clermont-Ferrand.
The SNCF journey can be made with an Interrail Pass or Eurail Pass. At the same time, the tourist train, ‘Le Train Touristique des Gorges de l’Allier’, goes at a slower pace with more stops and has an English audio commentary available.
Langogne is an earthy, market town, swiftly followed by emerald gorges and small beaches on the banks of the River Allier. You then snake through some 51 tunnels and over 16 viaducts with few signs of life, save for the odd eagle.
On the right side of the train, you glide past the pink roofs of farmhouses and chapels in hilltop volcanic villages like Pont-d’Alleyras, before the scenery shifts back to the left side of the train at Arcons d’Allier. You’ll disembark at Langeac with its pleasant riverside waterfront and a charming cluster of churches and museums.
How to Ride the Cevenol Gorges Railway from Langogne to Langeac
The journey from Langogne to Langeac on SNCF InterCity and Regional trains takes 1 hour and 25 minutes. The tourist train completes the trip in approx 2 hours.
Travel for FREE with optional seat reservations on Intercity trains with:
Buy regular train tickets in advance with Trainline.
Find out how to book the tourist train with Le Train Touristique des Gorges de l’Allier.
4. Berlin to Prague Line (Germany & Czech Republic)
Two of Europe’s most celebrated capital cities – Berlin and Prague – are connected by an equally impressive rail route. You might not think it as you initially trundle through the crumbling industrial infrastructure of eastern Germany – although it does have a spooky charm. Things start to change once you pass Dresden, however, and the landscape becomes noticeably more pastoral.
Make sure you sit on the left of the train for the best breathtaking views of the River Elbe. Highlights include the music box alpine buildings that dot the river near Bad Schandau and the sandstone peaks of the Saxon Switzerland National Park.
How to Ride the Berlin to Prague Line
The cross-border Berlin Hbf to Prague hl.n. train takes approx 4 hours and 30 minutes. Travel the journey with:
Travel for FREE or with optional seat reservation fees on daytime EuroCity services with:
Buy tickets in advance with Trainline, Deutsch Bahn or Czech Railways.
Tours and Holidays
Great Rail Journeys Berlin, Dresden and Prague holiday includes travelling this scenic railway. Rail Discoveries Vienna, Prague and Berlin holiday also incorporates the journey.
5. Mr Henderson’s Railway: Algeciras to Ronda (Spain)
Built-in 1892 to connect the port town of Algeciras with Cordoba, this line takes its name from its financier Sir Alexander Henderson. The British-built train takes you through some stunning, off-the-beaten-track Andalusian scenery – considered dangerous bandit country when American novelist Truman Capote rode through it.
You’ll pass through 16 tunnels and over 20 bridges and can spy fields of sunflowers, nesting stork colonies and towering limestone peaks, policed by eagles, buzzards and vultures.
Highlights include the dramatic hills and densely forested valleys just north of San Pablo on the edge of Alcornocales Natural Park, Europe’s largest cork forest.
Stop off at some of the many tempting trackside dining stops at stations along the route, or if you’re feeling spry hike 14 kilometres down to the picturesque white hilltop village of Gaucin Pueblo.
Back on board, look out also for some interesting Victorian railway memorabilia, harking back to the train’s British origins.
How to Ride Mr Henderson’s Railway from Algeciras to Ronda
Mr Henderson’s Railway from Algeciras to Ronda takes approx 1 hour and 50 minutes on Renfe Medium Distance trains. Altaria trains do the route 20 minutes quicker. You can travel it with:
Both Renfe services need seat reservations with extra fees with:
Buy tickets in advance with Trainline or Renfe.
6. The Flam Railway ‘Flamsbana’: Myrdal to Flam (Norway)
The Flamsbana (The Flam Railway), is one of the steepest standard track railway lines in the world, where almost 80% of the journey has a gradient of 5.5%. It’s a spectacular train journey that offers a panoramic view of some of the wildest Norwegian fjord landscape.
The Flamsbana whisks you through 20 tunnels, from the ocean-side view at Sognefjord, past steep peaks and waterfalls, to the top of a mountain at Myrdal, 867 metres above sea level, and all in under one hour.
From Myrdal, you can also transfer to the almost as dramatic Oslo – Bergen line or return to Flam.
The Flam Railway’s fjord scenery makes it a solid choice for one of Europe’s scenic train rides.
How to Ride the Flam Railway from Myrdal to Flam
The rail journey from Myrdal to Flam takes approx 1 hour. Travel on the Flamsbana with:
Get a 30% discount on fares with:
Buy train tickets in advance with ACP Rail or Vy.
Tours and Holidays
Experience The Flam Railway with Viator tours:
- Private Tour to Sognefjord, Gudvangen and Flam from Bergen
- Norway in a Nutshell – Roundtrip from Oslo to Oslo
- From Bergen to Oslo Day Trip
- Norway in a Nutshell – Roundtrip from Bergen to Bergen
Great Rail Journeys have three holidays that include the Flam Railway. Rail Discoveries Essential Norway also travels The Flam Railway.
7. Douro Valley Line ‘Linha do Douro’: Porto to Pocinho (Portugal)
The Douro Valley, famed for its port production and vineyard tasting tours, is best seen from this train. From its launch point at Ermesinde, a railway town 15km north of Porto, the 160km journey goes through the verdant heart of the Alto Douro Wine Region.
The train follows the course of the River Douro upstream, through 20 tunnels and over 30 bridges, with many stations being little more than shelters for local quintas (villas on wine estates). The route’s most scenic stretch unfurls between Regua and Pocinho. Here the train clings to the river banks, perched above jagged rocks in the Douro Gorge.
How to Ride the Linha do Douro (Douro Valley Line) from Ermesinde to Pocinho
The rail journey from Ermesinde to Pocinho takes approx 3 hours and 10 minutes. Travel the Douro Valley Line with:
Travel for FREE with no reservation fee:
Inter-Regional trains from Porto travel via Ermesinde and on to Pocinho. All trains from Porto Campanha and some from Porto Sao Bento take this route.
Buy train tickets in advance with Portuguese Railways.
Tours and Holidays
Experience the Linha do Douro with Viator tours:
- Day Trip from Porto to Regua by Train and Return by Boat
- Sunday Trip from Porto to Regua by Train and Return by Boat
Great Rail Journeys Portugal and The Douro holiday includes a trip on the railway. And Rail Discoveries Lisbon, Porto & The Douro also travels the Douro Valley Line.
8. The Inland Train ‘The Inlandsbanan’: Kristinehamn to Gallivare (Sweden)
Chase the midnight sun as you rattle 1,300 km through Sweden’s interior during the summer months between June and August. Departing from Kristinehamn the train takes in the sea, dense forests, lakes and mountains, not to mention vast swathes of wonderfully desolate backdrops, as it steers a line up to Gallivare.
Gallivare is a mining town in the Arctic Circle enveloped by forests and deeply enmeshed with the local Sami culture. Look out for reindeer, elk and even bears on a long journey which makes semi-spontaneous stops for refreshment and photo opportunities.
Although it’s only open for four months of the year, the Inland Train is still one of Europe’s most impressive rail journeys.
How to Ride The Inlandsbanan (The Inland Train) from Kristinehamn to Gallivare
The journey from Kristinehamn to Gallivare takes one and a half days to complete. Travel the route across three legs between Kristinehamn, Mora, Ostersund and Gallivare.
The scenic Inlandsbanan railway only opens from mid-June to the end of August. Travel The Inland Train with:
Seat reservations with charges are optional but recommended for:
Buy train tickets in advance with Inlandsbanan.
Tours and Holidays
Great Rail Journeys Arctic Circle Express, and Grand Arctic Circle Explorer holidays include travelling on The Inland Train.
9. Belgrade-Bar Railway: Belgrade to Bar (Serbia & Montenegro)
As you pull away from the Serbian capital, you probably won’t notice you’re on one of Europe’s best-rated scenic train rides until you reach the sloping hills of Uzice. From here you’ll criss-cross the Bosnian border via the remote villages of Zlatibor, after passing through the 6km-long Zlatibor Tunnel.
Around Prijepolje, the mighty Zlatar and Jadovnik mountains make their presence known. The highest stretch of the journey hits its peak at Kosalin, a popular ski and hiking resort.
There are a staggering 254 tunnels and 435 bridges to enjoy on this 296-mile journey. The bridges include the 498-metre long Mala Rijeka viaduct, one of the world’s highest, pitched nearly 200 metres above the ground. After passing through Montenegro’s capital Podgorica and skirting Lake Skadar, the train goes through its final tunnel before tracing the Adriatic coast to Bar.
How to Ride the Belgrade-Bar Railway from Belgrade to Bar
The rail journey from Belgrade to Bar takes approx 12 hours. Travel the route with:
It’s recommended but not essential to book reservations on daytime trains and applies to:
Train tickets from Belgrade to Bar are not available online. Find out train times and how to book tickets at Serbian Railways.
10. The Prahova Valley: Ploiesti to Brasov (Romania)
The stately pace of trains in Romania lends themselves perfectly to scenic excursions. Emerging from the flat Wallachian Plains that surround Ploiesti, the train heads up the Prahova Valley, snaking through narrow passages before climbing up the Bucegi Mountains towards Sinaia. This attractive town is festooned with fairytale buildings, like the famous Peles Palace.
The train then rolls on through hiking mecca Busteni and the 100-metre high Predeal Pass. Here you cross over into Transylvania, before making the downhill chug to Brasov, a historical hotspot heavy with walled citadels and medieval grandeur.
Although it’s a relatively short ride, the Ploiesti to Brasov railway is a worthy addition to Europe’s most scenic train rides.
How to Ride the Ploiesti to Brasov Train Through the Prahova Valley
The rail journey from Ploiesti Vest to Brasov takes between 1 hour 44 minutes and 2 hours 37 minutes. Travel the railway with:
Slower InterRegio (IR) trains do not require reservations. Faster InterCity (IC) trains do for a small fee which applies to rail passes:
The Eurail Select Two Country Pass Montenegro/Serbia/Romania includes Romania.
Buy train tickets in advance with:
11. Septemvri-Dobrinishte Railway: Dobrinishte to Septemvri (Bulgaria)
Bulgaria certainly gives Romania a run for its money in the snail-paced train stakes, but relax – it’s not about the speed, it’s all about the views! And this narrow-gauge line is a bona fide scenic feast.
Setting out from the small ski resort of Dobrinishte (or start further up the line at Bankso) in the shadow of the Pirin Mountains, the train first creeps beneath the snow-capped Rila Mountains.
It then wends its way through deciduous forests and farmland, past picture-book minarets and the spa town of Velingrad. The train then plunges into the deep Velingrad Gorge, before levelling out on the Plain of Thrace.
The journey ends at Septemvri, a modest village with connections to Bulgaria’s capital Sofia and second city Plovdiv. Plovdiv offers some fascinatingly quirky architecture and an impressive Roman amphitheatre, which is one of the best-preserved in the world.
How to Ride the Septemvri-Dobrinishte Narrow-Gauge Railway
The train journey from Dobrinishte to Septemvri takes between 4 hours and 30 minutes and 5 hours.
Rail passes do not require reservations:
Romania is also included in the Bulgaria/Montenegro/Serbia Eurail Select Two Country Pass.
Train tickets from Dobrinishte to Septemvri are not available to buy online. Find out more about tickets at BDZ – Bulgarian State Railways.
12. Dublin to Rosslare Railway: Dublin to Rosslare (Ireland)
This railway was built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1855 to provide a connection between Ireland and the ferry line between Rosslare and Fishguard in Wales. The stretch between Bray and Wicklow hugs the contours of the coast so snugly that new tunnels and viaducts were repeatedly reconfigured.
The line switches from double to single track at Bray Head, before looping inland through the wooded foothills of the Wicklow Mountains. It rejoins the coast at Arklow at the mouth of River Avoca where it crosses the Nineteen Arches Bridge.
The train then powers down through the agricultural landscape of the Bann Valley and the lusher Slaney Valley before finally clattering along the quayside to Rosslare Harbour.
How to Ride the Dublin to Rosslare Railway
The journey from Dublin Connolly to Rosslare Europort takes approx 2 hours and 50 minutes. Travel the railway with:
Reservations are possible but not required on InterCity trains in Ireland and apply to:
Buy train tickets in advance with:
13. Bernina Express: Chur to Tirano (Switzerland & Italy)
The Bernina Express slices southerly through the Graubunden Canton, reaching the lofty altitude of 2,253 metres at its highest point – and all without the gravity boost of a cogwheel track. The train passes through an ingenious system of spiral loops, 55 tunnels and 196 bridges.
You’re treated to a diverse variety of views, from the high Alpine scenery at the Bernina Pass to the Mediterranean atmosphere of the Poschiavo Valley en-route to Tirano.
Highlights include crossing the spectacularly curved Landwasser viaduct and the rugged Alpine landscapes as you ascend the Bernina Pass.
The dramatic descent follows with magnificent views of the Palu glacier before arriving into the Italian style border valleys in Switzerland. The final drop travels through the famous Brusio spiral viaduct before crossing the border and arriving in Tirano.
The Bernina Express’ breathtaking landscapes make it a highly cited scenic rail journey in Europe.
How to Ride the Bernina Express from Chur to Tirano
The Bernina Express from Chur to Tirano takes approx 4 hours and 15 minutes. The only non-stop direct train departs Chur 08.32 and arrives at Tirano at 12.45. There are other Bernina Express departures to Tirano from Davos and St Moritz.
Travel the scenic Chur to Tirano route in a panoramic viewing train with:
Bernina Express seat reservations cost between 10 and 14 Swiss Francs and apply to:
- Interrail Global and Switzerland Passes
- Eurail Global, Select and Switzerland Passes
- Swiss Travel Pass and Swiss Travel Pass Flex
Regular trains also travel the route, but you will need to change trains at Samedan and Pontresina. There aren’t any reservation fees on regular trains.
You will need seat reservations (cost 10 to 14 Swiss Francs) and a train ticket. Buy Bernina Express tickets in advance with:
Tours & Holidays
There are four Bernina Express tours on Viator that travel between St Moritz and Milan:
- Swiss Alps Bernina Express Rail Tour from Milan
- Swiss Alps Bernina Express Rail Tour from Milan with Hotel Pick Up
- 3-Day Bernina Express Independent Tour from Zurich
- 3-Day Bernina Express Independent Tour from Geneva
Great Rail Holidays has 17 holidays that ride the Bernina Express. While Rail Discoveries has nine holidays that include the trip.
14. Rhine Valley Line: Mainz to Koblenz (Germany)
This section of the West Rhine Railway leaves the sedate university town of Mainz to follow a meandering path on the west bank of the River Rhine. You’re treated to picture-postcard views of centuries-old castles as you travel through some idyllic German wine country.
Look out for Pfalzgrafenstein Castle on an island on the Rhine, justly famous for its picturesque setting.
The route passes countless sloping vineyards and ducks through the occasional tunnel, before arriving at the 2,000-year-old town of Koblenz, where the Rhine meets the Moselle.
How to Ride the Rhine Valley Line from Mainz to Koblenz
The journey takes between 50 minutes on InterCity, and 1 hour 30 minutes on Regional trains.
Seat reservations are not required for:
Buy tickets in advance with:
15. Arlberg Line: Innsbruck to Bludenz (Austria)
Last but not least, no list of the most scenic train journeys in Europe would be complete without mention of Austria’s Arlberg Line. The Arlberg Line transports you through typically Tyrolean scenery, starting from the high alpine setting of Innsbruck, through the hub of Landeck and via Langen am Arlberg at over 1,200 metres above sea level on one of Europe’s steepest passenger lines.
Journey highlights include the Trisanna Bridge, the Paznuan Valley (renowned as ‘the birthplace of Alpine skiing’) and the ten km-long Arlberg Tunnel.
Afterwards, you might also fancy journeying on to Zurich via Liechtenstein, along the shore of Lake Zurich.
How to Ride the Arlberg Line from Innsbruck to Bludenz
The Arlberg Line from Innsbruck to Bludenz is served by Rail Jet, Euro City and InterCity trains. The journey takes between 1 hour and 45 minutes and 2 hours.
Innsbruck to Zurich takes three and a half hours with Rail Jet.
Seat reservations are optional and not required on all services in Austria for:
Seat reservations are optional for travel on the Arlberg Line. Buy in advance with:
Tours and Holidays
Travel on the Arlberg Line with the Grand Alpine Explorer holiday from Great Rail Journeys:
We could easily go on, but we hope this list demonstrates the sheer diversity and stunning beauty of the best of Europe’s scenic train rides.
Remember that all of these magical journeys can be enjoyed using an Interrail or Eurail pass, giving you a comfortable, relaxing way to take in some of the continent’s finest scenic spots without busting the budget.
Thanks to Jools Stone and Graham Spicer for their creative writing and editing on this article.
Image credits: NAC, Lunon, Thom Quine, Ian Watson, beyondmagazine, Nelso Silva, Inlandsbanan, Halavar, Gabriel, Bdz43r, Irish Rail, Rhaetian Railway, Eurail, Siegele Roland