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Europe’s best autumn rail journeys

Thursday, 7th April 2022

Will Gray

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Every season has its advantages for a rail holiday, whether you’re making the most of long summer days or getting festive at some of Europe’s famous Christmas markets. Autumn is no exception. Once the busier summer season is over, you’ll find that tourist destinations are less crowded. City sightseeing can be more pleasant with cooler temperatures and less queues. The views are breathtaking as you travel through countryside burnished with autumn colours. Make tracks for the far north of Europe and you’ll catch the start of the northern lights season. Or, if you’re holding out for the promise of lingering sun and warmth, head south to Sicily and the Mediterranean.

Read on for Europe’s best autumn rail journeys…

For cities without the crowds

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Rather than snatching a whirlwind weekend away, Classic Cities of Italy gives you two whole weeks of slow travel – winding through France and the Alps by train, then joining the dots between Italy’s most iconic cities. As well as taking in the glorious sights of Renaissance Florence, you’ll visit the Tuscan hilltop town of Arezzo and travel through Umbria to Perugia and Assisi. Then it’s on to Rome for three nights where you can enjoy all the classic sights of the Italian capital – from the Colosseum and Roman Forum to the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain. You will also have time to explore the treasures of the Vatican before continuing to Venice – a fitting climax to your rail tour of Italy’s classic cities.

You’ll also love: Scandinavian Capitals by Rail – a leisurely exploration of Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm.

For spotting the northern lights

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With the northern lights visible in the far north of Europe from late August or early September, an autumn departure on the 21-night Arctic Rail Odyssey not only offers a superb opportunity for witnessing the natural phenomenon, but also takes you on a truly breathtaking journey to Arctic Europe. As well as visiting Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm, with their rich history and exciting design and cuisine, you’ll have an opportunity to stay in the original Icehotel, plus Swedish Lapland’s equally extraordinary Tree Hotel and Arctic Bath. All three properties are renowned for their displays of the northern lights. Other highlights of this epic rail journey include the Lofoten Islands, the Norwegian Fjords, Trondheim and Malmo.

For autumn colours

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The forests of Central Europe are particularly spectacular in their autumn finery and two-week exploring the Adriatic is a relaxing way to soak up the views. Travelling through the heart of Europe, you will not only experience the scenery of Bavaria, the Alps and Slovenia, but also enjoy a rich tapestry of cultural highlights, including Vienna’s Hofburg palace, Ljubljana’s hilltop citadel and the grand palaces and piazzas of Trieste.

You’ll also love: Trail of the Vikings – featuring the Dovre and Rauma railways which weave through some of Norway’s most spectacular forest and mountain scenery.

For sun and warmth

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If you don’t want summer to end, head south. The sun-kissed island of Sicily has average highs of 22C during October. Evenings are getting cooler, but the sea temperature still languishes at a pleasant 23C. You can also expect seven hours of sunshine and 11 hours of daylight. It’s no surprise, then, that the South to Sicily rail holiday is such an appealing prospect for two weeks away during autumn. First to Paris, then Milan and on through Tuscany to Naples, you reach Sicily after several days of blissfully slow travel through Europe. Highlights include a guided tour of Mt Etna, a boat trip to the idyllic Aeolian Islands and time to explore the ancient history of Taormina, Syracuse, Agrigento and Cefalú.

You’ll also love: Treasures of Southern Italy – for an equally sunny sojourn by rail in the Bay of Naples, Amalfi Coast and Apulia.

For pure air and mountain scenery

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There’s something particularly invigorating about the Alps in autumn. Although most coniferous trees remain green, swathes of larch turn golden yellow, while down in the valleys, maples add splashes of scarlet. Autumn also sees the summer crowds thin and the air become less hazy for crisper mountain views. It’s an invigorating time to visit. Featuring four of the world’s most scenic rail journeys – the Golden Pass, Glacier Express, Bernina Express and Gotthard Panorama Express – the Grand Tour of Switzerland gets you into the thick of the scenery, with plenty of opportunities for hikes, cable car rides and boat trips.

You’ll also love: Magnificent Norwegian Fjords – a rail journey to the heart of Norway’s magnificent fjord-riven coastline.

Feeling inspired?

Our collection of rail holidays through Europe take in the Mediterranean, and Scandinavia into the Arctic. Let our team of Travel Specialists carefully craft an itinerary for you or browse the full collection.

Get in touch with our Travel Specialists on 01737 214 250 or send an enquiry.