If you’re looking for an unforgettable travel experience that combines the charm of old-world rail travel with breathtaking views, then you’re in for a treat. In this blog post, we’ll be exploring some of the best train journeys in Europe that will leave you awe-inspired and craving for more.
Bernina Express: An Alpine Experience
The Bernina Express, a masterpiece of railway heritage, embarks on a captivating journey spanning just over four hours, connecting Chur in Switzerland to Tirano in Italy. With over a century of history, this route traverses 55 tunnels and crosses 196 bridges, offering passengers an unforgettable Alpine experience from the comfort of a panoramic dome car.
In winter, sunlight filters through the windows, illuminating the pristine snow and icy lakes. In summer, cows graze in meadows, surrounded by purple asters and snow-capped peaks. The train crosses vertiginous bridges anchored in rock faces, adding to the thrill.
Photographers adore this route, especially the iconic Landwasser Viaduct at Filisur, a limestone viaduct that spans a 64-meter drop. For added adventure, you can stay overnight in the medieval town of Poschiavo. Explore the Wednesday market, indulge in local delicacies, hike around the lake, and savour dinner at Hostaria del Borgo, known for its osso buco. The next day, carry on with your trip to Tirano.
Douro Valley Railway: Portugal’s Wine Country Expedition
Portugal unveils its culture and heritage through the charm of its leisurely trains. Among them, the Douro Valley line is a timeless gem. Established in 1925, this steam-powered train, composed of five graceful wooden carriages, is a beloved national treasure.
Departing from Régua station with a resounding hiss and a trail of nostalgia-inducing black smoke, the Douro Valley Railway embarks on a picturesque three-hour journey. It gracefully follows the meandering Douro River, unveiling a captivating tapestry of terraced vineyards, quintas, and olive groves.
Local musicians provide a lively soundtrack, serenading passengers with tambourines, guitars, and accordions. Onboard, travellers savour glasses of sweet Ferreira port and nibble on rebuçados da Régua, honeyed candies sold by ladies in white smocks.
As the train pauses at Pinhão and Tua stations, passengers can stretch their legs and secure a few bottles of port for souvenirs. Returning to Régua with one final hiss, the Douro Valley Railway leaves an indelible mark on all who embark on this enchanting journey.
Belmond Royal Scotsman: Adventure, Castles, and Luxury
Experience the epitome of Scottish luxury on a seven-night journey aboard the Belmond Royal Scotsman. With round-the-clock steward service, gourmet four-course dinners, and a plethora of whiskies, this voyage immerses you in Scotland’s splendour.
Departing from Edinburgh, the train’s ambience resembles an elongated Edwardian country house. Private compartments boast tartan cushions, polished wood panelling, and heather accents. While the train departs for Falkirk, indulge in lavish afternoon tea with salmon sandwiches, scones, clotted cream, and Dundee cake.
Forge camaraderie with fellow passengers amidst crystal and china clinking. As the train ventures through Glen Falloch and north to Spean Bridge for a peaceful night, prepare for a Full Scottish breakfast or vegetarian options.
The train’s renowned Michelin-starred chef, Mark Tamburrini, crafts seasonal culinary delights, such as Rannoch Moor venison. During your downtime, you can relax in the onboard lounge or observation car, both offering sweeping panoramic views. Days spent off the train include a charming ferry ride to the Isle of Bute. Expect days filled with walks, castles, massages, and traditional ceilidh dances. End your journey with a cosy night’s sleep rocked by the train’s motion, returning to Edinburgh with cherished memories.
The Elegant Journey of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
From Agatha Christie to Ian Fleming, the Orient Express has inspired authors, spies, and royalty, adorning action movies and Chanel No. 5 ads. It consistently tops lists of the world’s most enchanting train journeys.
Arriving at Venice’s Santa Lucia station, the iconic blue and gold train gleams. Dating to the 1920s, its carriages embody the romance of train travel. A steward welcomes you, handling your luggage and offering prosecco.
Once on board, you’re enveloped in a world where “Bésame Mucho” wafts from a grand piano. While legends abound, there was never a single “original” Orient Express. Launched in 1883, it was a regular passenger service until air travel’s rise.
Today’s Venice Simplon-Orient-Express owes its existence to James Sherwood, an American entrepreneur. He bought two 1920s carriages and marquetry panels in the 1970s and painstakingly gathered 23 vintage cars to create this remarkable train.
Built from 60 types of wood, these carriages have been meticulously restored, preserving every inch of marquetry. As the train gains pace, a tuxedo attendant offers a choice of lunch sittings, signalling the ideal time to freshen up. As the train winds through the Dolomites, passengers dine amid clanging pots, savouring dishes like chicken oysters and foie gras lasagna. Fire safety rules dictate no frying, adding a unique twist to the menu.
With the afternoon ahead, relax in your compartment with a classic novel or take a nap. Some head to the piano car for gin and tonics, camera clicks, and opulent surroundings. At night, the train transforms into a glamorous spectacle, offering a memorable journey through Europe’s stunning landscapes.
This adventure concludes in Calais, followed by a British Pullman service under the English Channel to London Victoria, with a final meal of salmon sandwiches and tea before the journey’s end.
Embrace Europe’s Timeless Train Journeys
Ready for an unforgettable adventure through Europe’s scenic wonders? These epic train journeys blend old-world charm with breathtaking landscapes. From the awe-inspiring Bernina Express in the Swiss Alps to the Douro Valley’s wine country expedition in Portugal, the Belmond Royal Scotsman’s Scottish luxury, and the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express’s timeless elegance, each ride promises cherished memories.
So why wait? Start planning your journey today and make SAGA Coffee Stories your first stop.
SAGA isn’t just a coffee shop; it’s a celebration of the golden age of travel. Inspired by the grandeur and nostalgia of locomotives that once crisscrossed the European continent, SAGA Coffee Stories pays homage to these magnificent journeys of old.