Throughout the 19th century, it was full steam ahead for train routes across Western Europe. Moving between destinations by rail was seen as a comfortable and convenient way to travel.
But the advent of the aeroplane left most rail routes out in the cold.
In the past few years, however, there’s been a revival of interest in forgotten tracks, as people seek out greener alternatives to flying. More overnight sleeper trains, better connections and value passes are now on offer in many European countries.
More than joining the dots between A and B, train travel is just as much about the journey, watching scenes unfurl through glass windows while enjoying the slower passage of time.
If you’re keen to hit the tracks this northern summer, here are a few holidays to try …
Scenic superstar: Switzerland
Duration: 9 days
From snow-capped mountains to glittering lakes, land-locked Switzerland has no shortage of astounding views. Take them all in on a rail journey across the country, stopping to overnight in a selection of boutique hotels.
Traverse gorges and glaciers along Europe’s highest rail trails on the Bernina Express railway line, classified a UNESCO World Heritage site, and admire the beauty of the Alps on the the Glacier Express.
The no-fly route passes through Zurich, Zermatt, St Moritz, Lugano, Lucerne and ends in Dijon, one of the wine capitals of France.
How to book: Visit wexas.com
Pilgrim’s choice: Spain
Duration: 9 nights
If you don’t have the appropriate fitness levels or 30 days to spare, opt to do northern Spain’s famous pilgrimage route by rail.
Work your way through five gastronomically rich cities featured on the classic Camino de Santiago, passing through the vast plains of the central region to the rivers and steep slopes of Ribeira Sacra, finally ending in the green landscapes of Galicia.
Visit Bilbao, home to the Guggenheim, Burgos, the birthplace of El Cid, Leon, with architecture by Antoni Gaudi, and lesser known Monforte de Lemos – a fortress transformed into a parador, where it’s possible to stay the night.
How to book: Available 15 March to 30 November. Visit inntravel.co.uk.
Route to romance: Italy
Duration: 9 days
Criss-crossing the country, a network of rail links connects some of Italy’s most famous cities. Add an extra layer of love to places already steeped in romance by revelling in a mode of transport used for decades.
Start a journey on the waterways of Venice, exploring the history and architecture of the Serenissima, then continue to Verona, where one of the most famous love tragedies unfolded.
Visit spots featured in Shakespeare’s classic Romeo & Juliet, before heading to the sparkling shores of Lake Garda. Anyone feeling energetic can head into the Dolomite Mountains for superb views across the Lake.
How to book: Visit citalia.com.
Classic vintage: France
Duration: 6 nights
There’s no risk of going over the limit on a wine-themed trip by train.
From the Champagne caves of Epernay to the vineyards of Bordeaux, discover where some of the finest French vintages are produced.
Starting in historic Reims, take a guided tour of the city’s Gothic architecture. Then continue to Hautvillers village, where the monk Dom Perignon first discovered the Champagne wine-making process, for a full-day Champagne Discovery Tour.
Use e-bikes to explore the vineyards of Medoc, and finish the trip in style with a visit to Saint-Émilion, the oldest wine area of the Bordeaux region.
How to book: Visit wexas.com.
Have you ever taken a train through Europe? Why not share your experience in the comments section below?
– With PA