Amazing European Rail Journeys to Make Your Jaw Drop

April 22, 2016

From peaks and mountains to coasts and cliffs, Europe has some of the world's most sublime railway journeys.

From the peaks of the Swiss Alps to the ancient towns of coastal Italy, Europe's railways travel through spectacular scenery and stunning vistas. Offering often unseen glimpses into the continent's most dramatic views, train rides can be the most incredible way to travel. We round up the best routes and journeys to explore.

Glacier and Matterhorn Express, Switzerland

The Glacier and Matterhorn Express in Switzerland with the Alps overlooking the line.

Switzerland's Matterhorn glacier is one of Europe's most sublime sights; it's also a year round winter sports destination thanks to its permanent ice cap. If you want to take in the views from the comfort of a carriage then hop on the Glacier and Matterhorn Express, one of Switzerland's most iconic railways. Beginning in the picturesque ski town of Zermatt, you'll catch a glimpse of the snow-capped glacier far above before heading on to chichi town of St. Moritz (a ski-lover's paradise).

Get there: Fly to Zurich

Cinque Terre Regionale, Italy

A train travels along the coast via the Cinque Terre Regionale in Italy.

Translated as ‘the five lands,’ Cinque Terre - a collection of five pastel-hued fishing villages in northern Italy - has one of Europe’s most postcard-perfect railways. After boarding in La Spezia, the regionale train meanders along the coastal track, stopping at each village along the way. Expect 17th century monasteries, tranquil beaches and quaint harbour views.

Get there: Fly to Florence

Málaga to Córdoba Route, Spain

A railway bridge part of the Málaga to Córdoba Route in Spain.

If you’re scared of heights, this journey might not be for you. The Hollywood-esque Málaga to Córdoba route in southern Spain offers wonderful Andalusian scenery – plus several stomach churning tracks and passes. Partly built into the cliff face, the line travels past the steep El Caminito del Rey gorge walkway in El Chorro. Luckily, there are also plenty of less terrifying vistas, including rolling Spanish hillsides and olive groves.

Get there: Fly to Málaga

Metro do Porto Light Rail, Portugal

A railway bridge part of the Metro do Porto Light Rail crossing a river in Porto.

The picturesque journey across the Dom Luís I Bridge is the highlight of Porto’s rail service. The double decker arched bridge crosses the Douro River and connects the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. From the carriages, it’s possible to view both historic terracotta roofed houses on one side and the Port wine caves on the other. 

Get there: Fly to Porto

Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

The snowy Garmisch-Partenkirchen railway in Bavaria.

The Garmisch-Partenkirchen railway in Bavaria is one of the oldest – and most spectacular– lines in Germany. Beginning in Munich, the route passes through alpine towns, dramatic rugged mountains and ice-capped peaks. Although popular with skiers and hikers, the region is relatively unspoilt; for instagrammable panoramas, journey in the winter months for magical snowy scenes.

Get there: Fly to Munich

West Highland Line, Scotland

A train travels via the West Highland Line in Scotland with beautiful views of the surrounding hills.

Harry Potter fans will recognise this iconic line as the Hogwarts Express route, but even mere muggles can enjoy this spectacular journey. Winding between Fort William and Mallaig, one of the most sublime points is the Glenfinnan Viaduct which has wonderful views over the surrounding hills.  

Get there: Fly to Glasgow

Siobhan Brewood-Wyatt
After a Masters in Comparative Literature, Siobhan worked for several big-name travel companies before joining travioor. She has been hooked on travel since her teens and her biggest adventure is booking flights from Rome to Rio after a few too many beers. Follow her on Twitter @SiobhanBW