There’s just something special about travelling by train. The rhythmic sounds and motion, the scenery that whizzes by, the other travellers you meet along the way, and pulling into the heart of a city make train travel anywhere a unique experience. With its dense network of railways and high number of frequencies, train travel in Europe is both easy and convenient. Various countries such as France, Germany and Spain also offer extensive high-speed train networks, making it possible for travellers to reach their destinations even quicker. If you’re planning to explore the continent, the hardest part lies in planning an itinerary as there’s just so much to see and do in Europe. For the first-time visitor to Europe, this could be a pretty daunting exercise. My advice is to be selective. Instead of trying to see as much as possible, choose a few places and concentrate on these, allowing yourself sufficient time to immerse yourself. Here are five itinerary ideas for train travel in Europe:

The high-speed ICE train hits more than 300km/h in Germany.
The high-speed ICE train hits more than 300km/h in Germany.

1. Bucket list cities

Create a list of 5-6 places that you’ve always dreamt of visiting. Then connect the dots. The extensive rail network in Europe will help you to easily travel from one place to the other. How about combining Amsterdam with Bruges and Paris? Or Vienna, Prague and Budapest? The possibilities are endless but be selective!

The grand Hofburg in Vienna.

2. Wine regions

Europe is home to some of the most famous wine regions in the world such as Rioja, Bordeaux, Tuscany and Rheingau. If you have plenty of time, why not plan an itinerary around the theme of wine regions? The wine regions are most often than not home to not only wineries but a multitude of historical, cultural and culinary attractions. For instance, Tuscany in Italy is home to the Chianti wines but also world-famous cities like Florence, Siena and Pisa.

The hills of Tuscany (courtesy of Engjell Gjepali/Unsplash).

3. UNESCO World Heritage sites

Another theme that can serve as a guide are UNESCO World Heritage sites. There are more than a hundred in Western Europe alone, from the canals in Amsterdam to the city of Venice. Choose from a diverse range of significant historical, cultural and natural attractions and plan your rail itinerary based on this selection.

europe train route ideas
Singel canal in Amsterdam

4. Mountains and the coast

There are many stunning railway routes that hug the European coastline such as the Cinque Terre in northwestern Italy, or traverse imposing mountain ranges such as the French and Swiss Alps. Whichever you choose, you’re guaranteed amazing panoramas and charming towns and villages to explore.

The railway hugs the Cinque Terre coast.

5. Festivals

Or why not make Festivals your theme? Join in the fun at La Tomatina near Valencia, revel in the splendor of the Carnavale in Venice, cheer on your favourite horse at the Palio in Siena, celebrate King’s Day in Amsterdam, soak up the jazz at the Montreux Jazz Festival or join in the merry-making at the Oktoberfest in Munich. Europe’s excellent train connections will ensure you don’t miss the fun!

Once you’ve scribbled down your ideas, start planning your rail journey. Voyages-sncf, formerly known as Rail Europe, is Europe’s leading rail ticket agency.

Check out my travel planning resources page.

8 Responses

  • Nice post. I travelled through Europe as a student and they have special passes for students at a fraction of the normal passes, so that helps too. 🙂

  • LOVE your Travel blog, very well put together, stunning images, a true credit to you!

  • Glad to see I’m not the only one who deeply loves trains here! Thanks for this post, I enjoyed reading your experience.

  • I live in England but I just love how easy it is to travel by train in mainland Europe – I would love to see Cinque Terre area one day and didn’t realise it was easily covered by rail!

  • There’s no better way to travel Europe in my opinion. I love it.

  • Oh how I love to travel by train in Europe! My first experience was an over nighter from Florence to Paris and what an unexpected adventure that turned out to be. We had our own cabin with bathroom and 3 bunk beds!! I stayed up half of the night as we listed to the rattle and hum of the wheels and watched the mountains go by as we traveled in and out of tunnels! One of my most unforgettable moments in Europe!

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