Clipping through the Alps or coasting along the French countryside, there's no better way to move throughout Europe than its incredible and comprehensive train system.

Of all the train journeys in Europe, we've compiled a list of the most scenic routes, best enjoyed from a window seat. 

Whether you're are navigating the depths of a fjord or spotting the romantic castles alongside the Rhine River, turn off your screen, relax and enjoy the view of these top scenic train routes in Europe. Learn more and explore further with Lonely Planet's new Guide to Train Travel in Europe.

A train on the Rauma Line at Kylling Bridge in Norway
Landscapes along the Rauma Line in Norway are nothing short of spectacular © Arne JW Kolstoe / Shutterstock

1. Rauma Line, Norway

Route: Dombås to Åndalsnes
Don't miss: Admiring Trollveggen, Europe's highest perpendicular rock face
Distance and duration: 70 miles (114km), 1½ hours
Best time to ride: June to August

Enjoy sensational views of high peaks, jagged rock faces and mountain slopes leading up to windswept plateaus as you trace the Rauma River aboard Norway's Rauma Line. Rattling across the lofty Kylling Bridge is one of the highlights of the trip, which also wends its way through the rugged Reinheimen National Park.

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A steam train drives over the viaduct at Glenfinnan, Scotland
Made famous by the Harry Potter films, the West Highland Line in Scotland really is magical © evenfh / Shutterstock

2. West Highland Line, Scotland

Route: Fort William to Mallaig
Don’t miss: Sampling seafood in Mallaig
Distance and duration: 41 miles (67km), 1½ hours
Best time to ride: June to August

The West Highland Line in Scotland is certainly one scenic journey, with rugged highlands, isolated lochs, flashes of coastline, Ben Nevis (Britain’s highest mountain) and spectacular views from the viaduct at Glenfinnan. The route and steam train are so easy on the eye that they crop up as the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter films. 

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Train traveling on the Bergen Railway, alongside a river surrounded by dense forest
Journey to Norway's highest station on the beautiful Bergen Railway © Marius Dobilas / Shutterstock

3. Bergen Railway, Norway

Route: Oslo to Bergen via Flåm
Don’t miss: Learning more about this feat of engineering at the Flåm Railway Museum
Distance and duration: 342 miles (550km), seven hours
Best time to ride: July or November to January

Norway's awe-inspiring Bergen Railway rolls through craggy mountain landscapes and across the beautiful Hardangervidda plateau to Norway’s highest station, Finse at 4010ft (1222m). On a branch line from Myrdal to Flåm, you go straight up on the world’s steepest railway line.

Oslo to Bergen: Europe’s best train journey?

Bernina Express traveling through the snowy Swiss Alps
The Bernina Express offers panoramic views of the Swiss Alps © Mor65_Mauro Piccardi /Shutterstock

4. Bernina Express, Switzerland and Italy

Route: Chur to Tirano
Don’t miss: Chic, lakeside St Moritz
Distance and duration: 76 miles (123km), four hours
Best time to ride: April

Relax behind panorama windows and soak up the spectacular Alpine views connecting northern and southern Europe. The Bernina Express follows two Unesco World Heritage–listed lines, the Albula and the Bernina, and sweeps among glaciers in Switzerland and palms in Italy.

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Train station in a small village with colourful houses on the edge of a low cliff. The rocky coastline stretches into the distance.
Regional trains stop at each of the five villages of Italy's Cinque Terre © Julia Lav / Shutterstock

5. Cinque Terre, Italy

Route: Levanto to La Spezia
Don’t miss: Walking the path between the Cinque Terre towns
Distance and duration: 12.5 miles (20km), 40 minutes
Best time to ride: February to October

Five colorful, rustic villages give Cinque Terre, an 11-mile (18km) stretch of rugged coastline, its name, meaning "five lands." Cliffs tumble into the picture-postcard turquoise Ligurian Sea, and bucolic vineyards and olive groves line the hills. Regional trains stop at all five Cinque Terre villages.

Italy's fabulous five: planning your trip to the Cinque Terre

Castle Katz and Loreley above the Rhine River, Germany
Coast through riverside scenery in Germany on the Central Rhine Railway © Hiroshi Higuchi / Getty Images

6. Central Rhine Railway, Germany

Route: Bingen to Koblenz
Don’t miss: Admiring the Lorelei Sculpture south of St Goarshausen
Distance and duration: 38 miles (61km), 50 minutes
Best time to ride: February to October

Germany's Rhine Valley offers romantic landscapes straight from a fairytale. Castles rise above swirling waters, past the narrows where the siren Lorelei lures sailors onto the rocks with her song, according to legend. The Mittelrheinbahn (Central Rhine Railway) follows the left bank of the Rhine River between Mainz and Koblenz.

Tracks along the Semmering Railway, Austria
The Unesco-listed Semmering Railway passes over 16 viaducts on its journey between Gloggnitz and Mürzzuschlag © trabantos / Shutterstock

7. Semmering Railway, Austria

Route: Gloggnitz to Mürzzuschlag
Don’t miss: Hiking along the railway line and then relaxing in a winter sauna in Semmering
Distance and duration: 25.5 miles (41km), 45 minutes
Best time to ride: Year round

Constructed between 1848 and 1854 by more than 20,000 workers, the Semmering Railway trundles through a picturesque wonderland as the train crosses the Semmering Pass, taking in 15 tunnels, 16 viaducts, countless switchbacks and arched bridges on a forested mountain stretch.

Train on the Centovalli Railway crosses the Isorno Bridge near Intragna, Switzerland
The Centovalli Railway crossing over the Melezza River © Mor65_Mauro Piccardi / Shutterstock

8. Centovalli Railway, Switzerland and Italy

Route: Locarno to Domodossola
Don’t miss: Strolling along dazzling blue Lake Maggiore
Distance and duration: 32 miles (52km), two hours
Best time to ride: June to August

The "Hundred Valley" Railway is a spectacle of waterfalls, chestnut groves, lush landscapes and vineyards: the Alps at their spellbinding best. Highlights of this journey include the Isorno Bridge near the village of Intragna and the gorge connecting Intragna and Re.

Train passing the Bavarian Alps near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
Ride on a train in the shadow of the Bavarian Alps on the Mittenwald Railway © agustavop / Getty Images

9. Mittenwald Railway, Austria and Germany

Route: Innsbruck to Zugspitze via Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Don’t miss: Schloss Ambras, a commanding white castle in Innsbruck
Distance and duration: 51.5 miles (83km), three hours
Best time to ride: Year round

The Mittenwald Railway is a beautiful border-crossing route that glides past glittering lakes and glorious mountainous landscapes on its journey between Austria and Germany. At Garmisch-Partenkirchen you can change trains and hop on the scenic Bavarian Zugspitze Railway, which chugs toward the summit of Zugspitze, Germany's highest mountain at 9717ft (2961m).

The bright red Glacier Express train cuts through rugged mountains covered in snow and trees under a clear blue sky
The Glacier Express sees some of Switzerland's most breathtaking scenery © Alessandro Colle / Shutterstock

10. Glacier Express, Switzerland

Route: Zermatt to St Moritz
Don’t miss: Getting to know the mountains at the Matterhorn Museum
Distance and duration: 180 miles (291km), 7½ hours
Best time to ride: November to January

On the Glacier Express, the chances of meeting a millionaire are higher than average as you curl between the eastern and western Swiss Alps, through pristine mountain landscapes and two of Switzerland's most reputable ski resorts. It's de rigueur for the ski enthusiast (and, literally, the upwardly mobile).

The world's most amazing scenic train journeys

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Safety recommendations and restrictions during a pandemic can change rapidly. Lonely Planet recommends that travelers always check with local authorities for up-to-date guidance before traveling during Covid-19.

This article was first published August 2019 and updated March 2022

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