Europe’s 10 best, most scenic railways revealed, Norway to Switzerland


The Glenfinnan Viaduct: 1400 rail enthusiasts rated their favorite European rail experiences. Photo / Roland Losslein, Unsplash

Europe experienced a stormy summer romance with rail transport. Discounted tickets and all-you-can-ride subscriptions in countries like Spain and Germany have seen record numbers on trains.

Despite starting the summer with a record 3 million seats, Deutsche Bahn has struggled to keep up with demand by launching a €9 unlimited rail pass. A total of 52 million tickets were sold, meaning more than half of the country wanted to ride the train between June and August.

Germany has ruled out an extension of the “super cheap” public transport offer for next year.

That doesn’t mean Europe’s summer flirtation with trains could be a one-time thing.

With timeless rail routes, international travelers take the train for pleasure, not just for commuting. The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express enjoyed its most successful year to date in 2019 following Kenneth Branagh Poirot’s relaunch and increased interest in luxury rail transport.

This summer, Accor announced it would overhaul 17 original 1920s Orient Express carriages in time for the Paris 2024 Olympics. Although at $3280 a night it’s far from the €9 rail card.

Europe is criss-crossed by hundreds of equally stunning and historic routes.

British consumer magazine Which? has published a definitive list of the 10 most scenic rail journeys on the continent.

In a survey of 1,400 rail travelers, travelers were asked to rate their favorite rail journeys in seven categories.

By rating each train for scenery, comfort, facilities, cleanliness, food and drink, service and value, the feedback took the survey to some surprising places.

The lead locomotive is in North Wales. Difficult to pronounce but beautiful to look at, the Ffestiniog Railway was Europe’s number one scenic railway.

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The Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog coastal route travels through vast, remote parts of Wales close to the Snowdonia National Park.

Unsurprisingly, Switzerland was well represented in the rail ranking.

Second place went jointly to Norway’s Bergen Railway and Switzerland’s Bernina Express to Italy, while the Glacier Express from Zermatt and St. Moritz came in third.

The Ffestiniog Railway has been voted the most scenic railway in Europe.  Photo / British Tourism Authority
The Ffestiniog Railway has been voted the most scenic railway in Europe. Photo / British Tourism Authority

Blaenau Ffestiniog, Wales 91%

Ffestiniog was a surprise winner but had a prime score of 91 percent.

The oldest narrow-gauge railway in the world, the steam locomotive, is a real treat for passengers.

“With the option of traveling in top-class Pullman carriages, you can push down windows, breathe in the sweet air and zoom across the Welsh countryside in just three hours – pulled by a whistling steam engine.” Which? unveiled, for $309 for a premium private seating compartment. A standard round-trip fare was $78.

Hall of the Mountain King: Bergen Train Station.  Photo / Getty Images
Hall of the Mountain King: Bergen Train Station. Photo / Getty Images

2= ​​Bergen Railway, Norway 90%

The joint runner-up train journey takes you from Bergen to Oslo through the Norwegian highlands. The seven-hour drive received a 90 percent rating from reviewers.

Built in 1909, it was a foot of engineering cutting through Europe’s harshest winter landscapes. Described as ‘Antarctica in miniature’, Finse’s year-round landscape was the training ground of polar explorers Roald Amundsen and Ernest Shackleton.

The normally understated national railway service, Vyrgruppen, describes it as “one of the most spectacular scenic experiences in Europe”.

Starting at $38 each way, it’s an affordable scenic journey.

Bernina Express - the highest train journey in Switzerland.  Photo / Sara Groblechner, Unsplash
Bernina Express – the highest train journey in Switzerland. Photo / Sara Groblechner, Unsplash

2= ​​Bernina Express, Switzerland 90%

As one of the highest railways in Europe, the Bernina can hardly be topped. It was the only railroad that scored a perfect 5/5 stars for scenery.

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These are the views from 2253 m above sea level. The crossing of the Alps to Italy, from Thusis via Valposchiavo to Tirano, is a Unesco World Heritage area.

The service offers “55 tunnels, 196 bridges and gradients of up to 70 per thousand with ease”, which passengers experience through glass panorama cars.

Prices are also quite high, starting at $104 each way.

The best of Switzerland on the Glacier Express.  Photo / Andreas Stutz, Unsplash
The best of Switzerland on the Glacier Express. Photo / Andreas Stutz, Unsplash

3 Glacier Express, Switzerland 89%

Visit of two of the most famous ski areas in Switzerland, St. Moritz to Zermatt.

Passing the country’s most famous mountains – including the Matterhorn (AKA Mt Toblerone) – the trains pass through 91 tunnels and 291 bridges, including the Landwasser Viaduct and the Rhine Gorge.

In the panorama cabins there is a dining option where the food is served at your seat. This offers wine pairings from the Swiss cantons of Graubünden and Valais to complement the view.

Brockenbahn: GDR mystery train.  Photo / Stefan Pasch, Unsplash
Brockenbahn: GDR mystery train. Photo / Stefan Pasch, Unsplash

4= Brocken Railway, Germany 86%

The old Soviet-era East German railway that runs through the Harz mountains could have come from a novel by John le Carre. for what? The Brocken was once a listening station for spies.

The railway regularly hosts a crime thriller “crime dinner” for passengers who want the full crime thriller experience.

The ride through densely forested landscapes to the top of the Brocken takes about an hour and 40 minutes round-trip, $77 per passenger.

The Ffestiniog Railway has been voted the most scenic railway in Europe.  Photo / British Tourism Authority
The Ffestiniog Railway has been voted the most scenic railway in Europe. Photo / British Tourism Authority

4= Talyllyn Railway, Wales 86%

Another Welsh rolling stock takes travelers from Snowdonia National Park to Nant Gwernol. The 7-mile (11 km) track was the first historic railway museum, opened in 1951 to preserve the 1865 railway.

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From $40 back.

4= Welsh Highland Railway, Wales 86%

At 40km along the railway line from Caernarfon to the Aberglaslyn Pass, it is the longest standing railway in Britain. With a return journey of over six hours, there’s plenty of time to enjoy the views of Caernaforn Castle and the Welsh Dales.

You can enjoy all of this from the comfort of a private cabin in a Pullman First Class Carriage.

The West Highland Railway crosses the Glenfinnan Viaduct.  Photo / Jack Anstey, Unsplash
The West Highland Railway crosses the Glenfinnan Viaduct. Photo / Jack Anstey, Unsplash

4= West Highland Line, Scotland 86%

Not to be confused with the previous entry, the West Highland Line takes passengers from Mallaig to Fort William and the Highlands. This is the real Hogwarts Express.

She crosses the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which features prominently in the Harry Potter films.
This Flying Scots service soars from the dramatic West Coast to the seat of Ben Nevis – Britain’s highest mountain.

From $74 one way.

Flamsbana: The mountainous Norwegian railway.  Photo / Alan W, Unsplash
Flamsbana: The mountainous Norwegian railway. Photo / Alan W, Unsplash

5 = Flaam Railway, Norway 85%

Exploring the 20 tunnels from the Aurlandsfjord fjord to Myrdal in Aurland is like a train journey for Grieg’s Mountain King.

The Flaam Railway also passes the 225 m high Kjosfossen waterfall and the old village of Flaam with a reconstructed Viking longboat.

From $107 one way

Balloons off the rails near Chateau-d'Oex, Switzerland.  Photo / Included
Balloons off the rails near Chateau-d’Oex, Switzerland. Photo / Included

5 = Golden Pass, Switzerland 85%

The long line from Lucerne to Montreux was the only entry included in which? received a full five stars for comfort.

A well-timed ride past the Grand Chalet in Rossiniere and Château-d’Oex corresponds to the world-famous hot-air balloon festival in the Alps.

The train crosses the French- and German-speaking cantons and disembarks in Zweisimmen, an old-fashioned Swiss village.



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