Most European train trips are about comfort and old world style – a leisurely and comfortable chair with a sleeping compartment for some romance. Train trips are not about speed nowadays but about the experience and Europe is one of the best with its old world charms and eloquent architecture. Just out the window is Alpine glaciers while enjoying gourmet dishes in a nostalgic last century eating car. Thus, our favorite European trains do not always offer the fastest trip – only the most memorable. All aboard!
Switzerland Sweet Express: The Chocolate Train
Route: Montreux to Broc, Switzerland
Duration: 9 hours, 45 minutes, roundtrip
This charming train running in summer and fall climbs from Montreux overlooking Lake Geneva to the medieval town of Gruyères. This idyllic town is where the cheese of the same name is made in the local factory which has tours for those culinary enthusiasts. After a tour of the local castle and lunch, you will reboard the train and continue on to Broc. There you’ll bus to the Cailler-Nestlé chocolate factory, tucked between Lake Gruyères and mountain peaks, for free samples, before making the return trip.
To Russia With Love: Trans-Siberian Railway
Route: Moscow to Vladivostok, Russia
Duration: 19 days
This iconic route in Russia crosses eight time zones to connect the Russian capital with a port on the Pacific Ocean hence the name. On board, poor mingle with rich, young with old, foreigners with locals. Social barriers disappear as passengers share a unique rail experience—and shots of $3-a-liter vodka. You can book a private car via a tour operator for added comfort.
Waterworld: The Flam Railway
Route: Flam to Myrdal, Norway
Duration: 1 hour
A must-do on any tour of fjord country, the Flam Railway, rising from a village on the shores of Aurlandsfjord, mounts a steeper climb than any other non-cog, normal-gauge railroad in the world. In just 12 miles, the train climbs over 2,838 feet to reach the mountain plateau of Myrdal in under an hour. See the Rjoandefossen waterfall with a free drop of 459 feet, and the Kjosfossen waterfall, plunging 305 feet, where the train makes a photo stop during the summer.
Bavarian Bullet: InterCity-Express (ICE)
Route: Munich to Nuremberg, Germany
Duration: 1 hour
Want to go fast? This high-speed wonder zooms you between two historic Bavarian cities at speeds up to 199 miles an hour. “It’s amazing to watch the landscape change so quickly,” says Gillian Seely, a Boston resident who traveled widely by rail while living in Europe for 22 years. “The train is completely quiet inside,” she says. “Vibrations are barely enough to cause ripples in your strong German coffee.” In December, visit various German cities via the ICE rail network to take in traditional Christmas markets selling seasonal foods, handmade gifts, and gluhwein, a mulled spiced wine.
The Elegance of Yesteryear: Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
Route: London to Venice
Duration: Two days, one night
On board the VSOE, as the train is known and the calendar returns to the 1920s and 30 years, the golden age of the rail on the continent. The operator spent $ 16 million in restoring 35 sleeping cars to their original sophistication of Art Deco; Passengers should dress with elegance for dinner: at least, in costume and tie for men and the equivalent for women; Black tie and encouraged dresses. Awakening at the sight of the snowy Alps and learn the story behind each of the restored cars.
Roughing it by Rail: Balkan Flexipass
Route: Belgrade, Serbia, to Bar, Montenegro
Duration: 10 hours, this leg
Explore the heart of the former Yugoslavia via a Balkan Flexipass (which offers unlimited trips for five, ten or 15 days across Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Turkey). Start at Belgrade, with its every night club scene Fastuny, jump to one of the last stops to go shopping or overnight, then embark a subsequent train to continue asleep bar, an old city influenced by various Conquering cultures on the sunny band. Adriatic. “Relax and the extra time for inevitable delays,” says Chris Deliso, travel writer who lives in Macedonia. “Trains are exhausted and the local characters you encounter are types of salt.”
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