Last Updated on November 6, 2022 by Suzy
I love trains, especially steam trains. There’s nothing quite like sitting back, relaxing and watching some stunning scenery go by. Plus of course, the transportation that you are riding in looks pretty special as well.
Nowadays there are only a select few train holidays where you can ride on a steam train but the trains available are modern and run to time a lot better than our British trains do.
Stopping off at different places along the way is a fabulous way to explore. Most train stations are very central and it may just be a case of hopping in a taxi or walking a short distance to find an interesting attraction or somewhere to eat.
Another bonus is that you can travel by train and not have to sleep on the train. This is the cause of some very expensive train journeys. Instead, you can travel by train, explore on foot and then sleep in a hotel for the night. This makes it a far better option for families to go on tailor-made train holidays. What a great addition to a family bucket list.
#1 – Switzerland
The scenery in Switzerland is quite simply stunning and the trains go where cars simply can’t go. You can expect to travel by train across mountains and stop off at some of the world’s prettiest cities and towns.
It’s very easy to travel by rail to Switzerland from the UK. Paris provides easy access to the French-speaking West. If you want to visit Zurich, Chur or Basel first then you would travel via Brussels and Frankfurt.
Highlights of a train holiday in Switzerland are taking the Glacier Express. Dubbed as the world’s slowest train. This train actually climbs up real glaciers and benefits from glass ceilings so that you see as many stunning views as possible.
This is not the only glass-roofed train in Switzerland. The Glacier Express also climbs up Switzerland’s highest mountain The Matterhorn. The Bernina Express is a train journey with the best views of the most beautiful scenery that Switzerland has to offer.
#2 – Germany
Germany boasts some of the most modern trains in the world. With comfortable seats and hassle-free travelling with on-time trains. There are many beautiful cities in Germany waiting to be explored on a tailor-made train holiday.
To travel to Germany from the UK by train you can travel via Brussels in Belgium and then on to Cologne or Frankfurt. Or you can travel via Paris and then you can travel to southern Germany such as Frankfurt which can take around 4 hours. Travelling to Munich or Berlin will take 9 to 10 hours.
Bavaria should be high on your priority list to visit by train. There is the medieval Rothenburg and Nuremberg plus other smaller towns and cities that your rail pass can take you to. Plus you could visit the stunning Neuschwanstein castle which should be on everyone’s bucket list.
This stunning castle is the inspiration for Walt Disney’s castle. You can also visit Hitler’s Eagles nest which I visited as a child and I can highly recommend a visit.
There are so many accessible places to visit in Germany on a tailor-made train holiday it’s hard to choose what to include. Other options could be a city break in Berlin. Or a journey to Heidelberg and Lake Constance plus many more.
#3 – Canada
Canada has a very famous train that you also sleep on named the Rocky Mountaineer. The train and the scenery that it passes through are stunning. But the holiday is out of just about everyone’s price range. Canada doesn’t have to be done via an expensive sleeper train.
Canada is well connected by train and there’s plenty waiting to be seen and explored. Plus it’s a great way for everyone to sit back and enjoy the view as let’s face it if you were travelling by car the driver should really be concentrating on the road ahead.
You can travel by train along the coast or along the Rocky Mountains. Or stop off along the way at the picturesque Banff, Jasper and Kamloops plus many other places. Or why not take a train journey that involves seeing the Great Lakes of Canada or the main cities like Montreal and Quebec?
#4 – Italy
Italy is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world. There is so much to see from the waterways of Venice to the picturesque Cinque Terre. To the historical cities such as Rome and Florence and the Italian lakes of Como, Garda and Maggiore. There are many possible routes that you can take around Italy via a train holiday. You can even take a boat over to Sicily or Sardinia and then explore the islands via train.
You can travel via Eurostar from the UK to Paris or Brussels. From here you head south to Germany or Switzerland. After an overnight stop, you can then make your way through the Alps onto Verona, Venice or Milan. Italy is connected via a super-quick rail network. The Brenner pass route travels from Munich to Venice and is highly recommended as it is one of Europe’s most spectacular train journeys.
Now comes the tough choice where on earth to include in your tailor-made train itinerary? There are so many places to visit. I have mentioned some above. Personally, I’d love to visit the Amalfi coast and the famous Cinque Terre. Each of the five picturesque villages has their own railway station. The majestic Lake Como also looks like a lovely place to visit by train.
#5 – Scandinavia
Scandinavia is set apart from the rest of Europe by the Baltic Sea. Scandinavia includes Denmark, Noway and Sweden and up through the Arctic Circle.
Travelling to Scandinavia by train is easier than you may think. From the UK you take 2 two-hour journeys to Cologne and then on to Hamburg. From there the train rolls onto a boat and takes you over the Baltic Sea to Denmark. The trains in Scandinavia run in any weather and are well known for being punctual. From Denmark, you can easily access lots of Scandinavia by train.
There is plenty to do in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. Like Copenhagen in Denmark, it has many colourful streets. Not to be missed is the Vasa Museum, which houses a 17th-century gunship that sank on her maiden voyage out of the city in 1628.
Taking a train through Norway will take you alongside its famous Fjords. Bergen is a good starting point with wharf buildings that are now a UNESCO World Heritage site. There’s also a funicular ride that will provide you with stunning views.
After travelling on the famous Flåm Railway with legendary views of the Fjords why not visit the capital Oslo? There’s so much to see in Oslo with the Viking Ship Museum being a highlight for families.
#6 – Croatia
The scenery and diversity of Croatia are simply stunning. With crystal-clear lakes, an endless coastline and beautiful mountain ranges. It is a great country to explore by train. There are many medieval walled cities, Roman amphitheatres and Venitian-style piazzas.
Getting to Croatia is a longer journey than most of the destinations on this list. However, you can certainly include some stop-offs along the way such as Lake Bled. Trains to Croatia go from Munich which then passes through Austria and Slovenia. The train network then runs down through Croatia.
A highlight of a train holiday to Croatia is the medieval city of Split. It is an old Roman settlement and it is worth staying there for a few days. In Dubrovnik, you can take a cable car up Mt Srd where you can enjoy panoramic views of the City below. Dubrovnik itself does not have a train station but can be easily accessed by bus from Mostar, Split or Montenegro.
The Adriatic is one of Europe’s most popular coastlines. It boasts beautiful scenery and there are other equally beautiful islands which you can take a boat out to.
#7 – Finland
Did you know that Finland is larger than the whole of the UK but it actually has a population smaller than London? This is the beauty of Finland as it is largely unspoilt. In Finland, you will find Lapland, the home of Santa Claus. Lapland is also famous for the Northern Lights in Winter and the Midnight Sun in summer. Finland is the perfect country for enjoying outdoor activities.
You could just fly to Finland, however, what would be the fun in that? You can see quite a bit of Europe travelling to Finland by train and stopping off when needed along the way. The most direct route is through Germany, up to Denmark over to Sweden and then via the ferry to Helsinki or Turku in Finland. Or you could relive some of Michael Portillo’s route through the Baltic States.
Considerations for a train holiday to Finland would be Helsinki and some of its popular tourist attractions. Turku is Finland’s oldest City and is historic yet modern with old sailing ships moored up. Why not take the night train up to Lapland and enjoy plenty of snow-themed activities such as snowmobiling, riding on a husky sledge or visiting a reindeer farm?
#8 – Romania
Romania is largely unexplored by tourists and is a great destination to explore by train because of that. Trains run between all the major cities and enjoy the panoramic scenery along the way. There are steep mountain ranges and Gothic castles, notably in Transylvania.
From the UK it takes around 48 hours to get to Romania via train using overnight trains. If you prefer to stop off at hotels along the way the journey will take longer.
Once in Romania, there are cobbled streets in Brasov with a cable car up the summit. Sinaia is reputably the country’s finest holiday resort with the famous Peles castle as its landmark. Sighisoara is one of Romania’s most visited tourist attractions with car-free streets and ancient churches.
#9 – Slovenia
What Slovenia lacks by way of size as a country it makes up for it with its great variety of scenery. There are the peaks of the Julian Alps and the beautiful beaches down on the Adriatic coastline. Most main destinations are connected by a well-serviced rail network with mostly modern and comfortable trains. There is plenty waiting to be seen and explored in Slovenia.
Lake Bled is the highlight of any train holiday in Slovenia so be sure not to miss it off your itinerary. Bled castle stands predominantly on the lake and looks like something out of a fairytale.
Most of the towns in Slovenia boast buildings with elegant Baroque and Vienna Secession-style architecture and stunning blue rivers. Also en route, you could stop at the historic town of Piran with its picturesque medieval streets. One thing you should see plenty of in Slovenia is stunning mountain ranges.
#10 – Morocco
Morocco is perhaps the last place you will think of when you conjure up ideas of a family train holiday. There is plenty to see and do on a train journey through Morrocco. There is the spectacular Atlantic coastline. The endless Sahara desert, medinas and the Atlas mountains. It is incredibly diverse.
Believe it or not, you can reach Morrocco by mostly travelling by train. Morocco itself has a well-developed rail network. With high-speed links through France and Spain, it’s reachable from London with just two full days of travel and an overnight stop in Barcelona. You can do the journey without flying but you will need to take a ferry from Barcelona to Morocco.
Highlights of a train journey to Morocco could possibly include the medinas of Marrakech, Rabat, Fez and Tangier. Here you can truly immerse yourselves in Moroccan life and do a spot of shopping in the Souks. Taking train journeys via different cities in Morocco can also benefit from different landscapes such as mountainous landscapes.
Disclosure: This post may contain compensated links. All words are my own. Photos are courtesy of Pixabay.