Give thanks to the engineers who built railways across Europe’s most difficult terrain: their hard work has translated into some of the world’s most picturesque train journeys. In Scandinavia, rail lines run along icy rivers to fjords. In Germany, Switzerland and Italy, trains chug through carved valleys in the snow-capped Alps and along the swirling Rhine River dotted with romantic castles. Puffs of smoke from steam trains rise from crags deep in the Scottish Highlands
Hop aboard for a tour of Europe’s most scenic train routes.
1. West Highland Line, Scotland
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.
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
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2. Rauma Line, Norway
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.
3. Bergen Railway, Norway
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.
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