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Europe’s best summer rail journeys

Friday, 8th December 2023

Will Gray

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With over 240,000km of railway track connecting every corner of Europe, why not make your next holiday to the Mediterranean, Scandinavia, or even the Arctic, a rail journey? Summer is the perfect time to get on track for discovering Europe’s scenery and culture. By catching the train, you’ll not only take the route less-travelled, but also combine several destinations in one trip. Read on for our six best rail journeys for summer…

For exploring Italy

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Three hundred years ago, wealthy young Englishmen wafted through Europe on the traditional ‘Grand Tour’, a cultural rite of passage. Take a rail journey to Italy this summer and you can retrace their classic itinerary, visiting the same historical gems but without the need to polish your aristocratic connections or pose next to antiquities to have your portrait painted. Two weeks of blissfully ‘slow travel’, the Classic Cities of Italy rail holiday departs London before meandering via Paris and Milan to the Alps. Then it’s on to Tuscany, Umbria, Abruzzo and Le Marche – dreamy Italian countryside unfurling past your window. Step from your train right into the heart of Florence, Arezzo, Perugia, Rome and Venice, losing yourself in the art, architecture and ancient wonders of each city before continuing on your ‘grand rail tour’.

You’ll also love: Treasures of Southern Italy – London to Milan, then Bay of Naples, Amalfi Coast and Apulia

For combining trains and ferries

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What could be better than a leisurely rail holiday linking Copenhagen and Stockholm before exploring the Baltic Sea…? How about one that seamlessly integrated your train travel with ferry trips that took you to Baltic beauties like Turku in Finland and the medieval masterpiece of Estonia’s capital, Tallinn.

The 17-day Wonders of the Baltic itinerary does just that. A fascinating journey linking the grand ports of the Hanseatic League (which grew rich on trade during the Middle Ages), this is a superb choice for a summer rail and ferry odyssey. As well as delving into medieval town centres and enjoying Scandinavian culture, you’ll get a maritime view of the Baltic’s stunning archipelagos.

You’ll also love: Capitals of Scandinavia – link Helsinki with Stockholm, Oslo and Copenhagen by boat and train with flights to the UK.

For seeing the best of Switzerland

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In a country where alpine grandeur is matched by the heady heights of technological innovation and engineering prowess, you might expect Switzerland to offer some pretty special rail experiences. And you’d be right. We think the 15-day Grand Tour of Switzerland is one of the best rail holidays in the world. It connects no fewer than four of the most iconic, scenic train journeys you’ll find anywhere. Twisting, turning, climbing and unravelling through a breathtaking pastiche of lake and mountain, you’ll ride the Golden Pass, Glacier Express, Bernina Express and Gotthard Panorama Express – with plenty of time for exploring medieval towns, sampling Swiss cuisine and enjoying the odd mountain hike, cable car ride or boat trip.

You’ll also love: Magnificent Norwegian Fjords – across the roof of Norway to Bergen

For discovering Norway

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Norway is so synonymous with cruising that you might never have considered a rail holiday there. The fact is, taking the train to Norway not only allows you to visit Copenhagen, Gothenburg and Oslo along the way, but it also includes spectacular rail journeys on the Bergen Line (Across the Roof of Norway) and Flam’s mountain-clinging ‘Corkscrew Railway’. It’s all neatly dovetailed in the 12-day Magnificent Norwegian Fjords rail holiday. Once in the heart of the Fjords, you will have plenty of opportunities for hiking, while a boat trip along head-spinning Naeroyfjord and Aurlandsfjord, plus a ferry between Bergen and Stavanger, allow you to get that all-important perspective from the sea.

You’ll also love: Trail of the Vikings – for stunning Andalsnes and the Viking city of Trondheim

For reaching the Mediterranean

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Of course, you could just fly there. But by taking the train, you only reach Sicily on Day 5 of this 16-day South to Sicily holiday, which means ample time for marvelling at the sights of Milan, delving into the cobbled streets of Naples and exploring Pompeii and Mt Vesuvius along the way. By the time you arrive in the ancient Sicilian hill town of Tormina, you’ll feel like you’ve really travelled to this sun-drenched island. An archaeological treasure trail, this itinerary also features the World Heritage Sites of Syracuse and Agrigento, the grand city of Palermo and the beautiful medieval town of Cefalú.

For witnessing the midnight sun

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Equally magical during autumn or winter (when you can keep watch for the northern lights), the epic, three-week Arctic Rail Odyssey makes the most of endless summer days in the far north of Europe – and the midnight sun in June. After visiting Copenhagen, Oslo, Andalsnes and Trondheim (an adventure in itself), you continue north on the 729km Nordland Line, crossing the Arctic Circle to reach Bodo. A ferry then takes you to the bewitching Lofoten Islands to experience some of Norway’s most spectacular scenery. From Narvik you travel by train to Abisko for a stay at the legendary Icehotel before crossing Swedish Lapland to Boden – home of the equally amazing Treehotel and Arctic Bath. With so much to see and experience, the land of the midnight sun gives you all the daylight you need.

You’ll also love: Scandinavian Capitals by Rail – for wonderful Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm


Feeling inspired?

Our collection of rail holidays through Europe take in the Mediterranean, the Alps, 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.