Beautiful Countries in Europe You Need to See by Train
Europe has a lot of natural beauty, and much of that beauty is accessible to rail riders. What better way to soak up the view than from the train? Large windows, comfortable seats, smooth riding – all you need is the right info to plan your adventure and a ticket to ride. From the fjords of Norway to the alpine pastures of Switzerland, here’s your gateway to the most beautiful countries in Europe by rail.
Beautiful countries in Europe
Situated in Central Europe, much of Austria’s beauty comes in the form of mountains. But with pretty wooden-framed houses, broad valleys, and shapely church steeples rising from picturesque small towns, mountains aren’t the country’s only asset. There are two classic scenic rail journeys and fine historic cities scattered throughout Austria. In addition, its world-class winter sports and excellent system of hiking trails and alpine huts make it a superb destination any time of year.
Austria’s system of RailJet trains makes traveling comfortable and efficient, and few trains here require reservations or associated fees if you’ve got a Eurail Pass. The capital, Vienna, is the obvious rail hub. It has several international connections, including night trains. Innsbruck and Salzburg are traveler favorites, too. For two spectacular journeys, try the Semmering Bahn scenic train and the Arlbergline scenic train.
Few make use of their Eurail Pass in Norway, and that’s a shame. Norway is a country of outstanding natural beauty. Most travelers here want to get a glimpse of the famous fjords: deep undersea valleys carved out by glaciers. Others come for the culture of second-city Bergen, the museums of Oslo, and the history of Trondheim. With extreme winter sports hub Voss, as well as the potential to view the northern lights, don’t write off a trip to Norway in the winter.
Norway has an excellent rail system. Although train departures are less infrequent, journeys are comfortable, and as we’ve mentioned, very scenic. Separate point-to-point tickets are expensive, so the Eurail Global Pass is a fantastic value here. Don’t miss the Rauma Line or the Bergen Railway, two scenic journeys fully included with your Eurail Pass.
Landlocked Switzerland is not only one of the most beautiful countries in Europe, but it also has a world-class rail system. First and foremost you’ve got the Swiss Alps with their sharp beauty, contrasted by the soft alpine pastures and carefully built Swiss houses, which blend into the landscape perfectly. These regions of Europe also have beautiful lakes and river valleys studded with castles. Don’t forget the man-made beauty – Switzerland has some of Europe’s best-preserved towns.
Switzerland is best seen by rail. Trains in Switzerland go places even roads do not, and there are numerous scenic rail routes. The rail system here is made up of frequent, punctual, comfortable, and speedy trains. And since Switzerland is a small country, distances aren’t huge. Zürich or touristy but beautiful Lucerne make good bases for day trips by rail. Take in the different regions of the country by also stopping in Geneva, Bern, or Lugano. For other interesting stops, slightly off the beaten track, try Locarno, Bellinzona, or Schaffhausen.
When it comes to beautiful countries in Europe, it’s hard to top the physical diversity of France. From its lengthy coastline to the heights of the Alps, the lavender fields of Provence and the dairy farms of Normandy. The French have perfected the art of beauty. This is visible not only in the landscape, but in their fashion, their language, and the finesse and love with which they prepare food. To see life being lived to its fullest, include France in your Eurail itinerary.
High-speed TGV lines often blast through dull farmland. But the regional trains slowly chug around graceful river bends, past ancient chateaus, and along attractive vineyards. Plus, regional trains in France don’t require a reservation. The rail system here is an all-tracks-lead-to-Paris setup. And remember, the country is big, so plan accordingly with your regional priorities.
Although the thought of Germany as a beautiful country might not come to mind at first, there are certainly some impressive corners to this country: the Black Forest, Rhine Valley, the Romantic Road, and its iconic Neuschwanstein Castle. Add to that the countless cultural and architectural treasures of the many historic cities and small towns across Germany. Enjoy delicious, hearty German food, washed down with a stein of beer that the country is famous for. Popular events like the Christmas markets and Oktoberfest make any time of the year a good choice to visit Germany.
Germany’s rail system works like a dream. Connections are frequent and the breadth of the network is remarkable. Hamburg, Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt, and Munich all act as rail hubs. For scenic routes, check out the Black Forest Lines and the Rhine Valley Scenic Line fringed with pretty vineyards.
Separated from the rest of Europe by the Pyrenees mountains, Spain links to France on both sides of this range. Spain is another big country with diverse regions and people. From the jagged Picos de Europa in northern Spain to the Pueblos Blancos of Andalusia, there’s enough of Spain to go around. Whether you’re after Mediterranean beaches, one of the finest art collections in Madrid, the ancient towns along the famed Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, or just want to munch on tapas and sip red wine before clubbing till dawn, there is no wrong reason to visit this traveler favorite.
Madrid and Barcelona are the rail hubs and biggest cities of Spain. Spain’s high-speed rail lines link up most corners of the country, which in the past took several hours. I can’t say this about every country, but you could almost go to any region of Spain and find interesting locales and places of beauty. There’s Andalucía, Extremadura, Galicia, Asturias, Catalonia, and Basque Country, just to name some of the best. Read up on rail travel in Spain for more info.
These are just some of the most beautiful countries in Europe. With a Eurail Global Pass in hand, you’ll get the flexibility and value to make the trip of a lifetime a reality. Get out there and discover Europe!
If you liked “Beautiful countries in Europe”:
Europe’s top 10 must-see natural wonders
What are the most awe-inspiring castles in Europe?
Best scenic routes in Southeast Europe