Riding the Rails in Europe

One of the highlights of my recent trip to Europe was all the train travel I did. Using my Eurail pass, I rode through the continent’s amazing countryside. In the past, I’d done some limited train travel, but usually my travel plans are random, so I typically fly around Europe on cheap Ryanair flights. This time, though, since I had a pretty set route, I really wanted to explore Europe by train. I’d heard so much about it that it was time for me to experience it. I got to see the countrysides of…

The vast Spanish Countryside with small shrubbery
While not my favorite, the Spanish countryside was beautiful. The land seemed both desolate and full of life at the same time. There weren’t a lot of big trees, and even from the train, you could feel the heat emanating from the land. It was very dry and arid, but not off putting.

The rolling green hills of French Countryside with a white farm house
France has one of my favorite countrysides. Riding through it, you can see the land is extremely fertile. The rolling hills filled with wineries and farms make for some serene train rides. Furthermore, I love passing little French towns throughout the countryside. They’re beautiful and only make me want to live in France more.

A photo of Belgium's peaceful countryside from the train
Belgium was cool to pass through. This small country has a lot of small towns divided by seemingly smaller farms. You see a lot of dairy farms here, and I think I even saw a few grain (or maybe corn?) farms. The area reminds me a lot of Vermont with the old-style farm houses and barns, small farms, and lots of cows.

The Netherlands' Countryside with shed phrasing the green fields
Similar to Belgium, Holland has a lot of small farms and flat countryside. It’s interesting to see the countryside just go on for miles in all direction and to see all the inter-linked canals throughout the country. Also, I loved seeing all the wind turbines. It’s always nice to see countries go green.

The Swedish Countryside trees and crystal lakeSweden is beautiful, and the countryside is just one more reason for me to love the country. It reminds me a lot of New England, especially since I went during the fall when the leaves were changing. Riding the train down from Stockholm to Gothenburg, I got to pass mountains topped with trees, lakes, and a few small farms and towns. It was like being home.

The Austrian Countryside from the inside of the train in Europe
Back in 2006, I took a train from Venice to Vienna. Since then, I’ve been in love with the Austrian countryside. Like Sweden, it’s filled with amazing mountains, vistas, and little country farms and towns. The scenery changes between countryside and towns often, but it’s just what you’d picture Austria to look like.

After taking so many trains through Europe, I’m now hooked. I’ll probably do more train travel around the continent the next time I go. (Though I still forsake overnight trains! Never again!). The European countryside is beautiful, and it’s hard to get a real appreciation for it when you bounce from city to city. Riding the train across the continent can give you that appreciation for Europe’s varied and beautiful countryside.

  1. I love Europe by train! Something romantic and “old school” about it. I “Eurailed” it across the continent on my first solo backpack trip in 1996! Fresh out of university, single, and having fun! How I miss those days.

  2. Forest

    Why do you forsake overnight trains? If you’re like me, a guy with limited time to travel, it’s a godsend, a cheap bunk, and a way to get from A to B!

    I abhor flying. I’m just to big to fit comfortably in any standard coach class seats. I’m a wide shouldered 6’4 guy. Planes are not designed for me!

    The things I love most about train travel are that I feel it gets you closer to the country you are traveling through. Not just literally, I mean, you get a better feel for the place, you get to see more of the workaday towns and cities, not just the big tourist centers.

    Great article, really makes me want to get traveling again!

  3. Excellent photo’s Matt, it’s not easy to shoot from a train!

    I really enjoyed this article :-) comparitive aspect of different European countrysides is a great subject.

  4. Awesome photos and journeys. We’ve been discussing train through Europe earlier and it’s high up on our wish list and this post didn’t exactly change that… more like fuel on the fire… *giggles*

    Though I wish that we could go through the whole countries from one end to another – even Sweden since we have such shifting sceneries over here.

    I’ve seen several old train journes films through US, because I’ve a BIL that is totally crazy about trains :-)

  5. I love trains and Europe has a great network. Overnight trains are great to get from A to B but daytime trains let you see C on the way. Depends how much time you have and how much you want to see C. I can’t wait for them to build the high-speed track from San Francisco to Los Angeles – federal funds have been earmarked so hopefully it will actually happen.

  6. I think train are considered to be much more environmentally friendly than aircrafts. Unfortunately, they lose their ecological advantage when speed goes up. And train companies seem to be obsessed by speed. Last week, the French high speed train (TGV) officially broke the 515 km/h speed record of 1990.

  7. Barny

    Thanks for doing a post on trains. That is one of the must experience things I want out of my Europe trip. If your over night train experience is anything like my over night grey hound experiences I understand

  8. Nisha

    What a wonderful delight to the eyes !

    As far as possible, I always prefer train journeys to air and then once inside, I can’t even read a novel however hard i try ! The sights are much more interesting.

  9. ivan

    Low rates flights made me forget that train travels offer such beautiful landscapes… You’re totally right to ride across the world on rails whenever it’s possible, I’ll definitely think about that option when I’ll plan my next trip.

    Oh, and you should totally ride across Switzerland too, particularly in mountains areas..

  10. I totally agree. The best way to see Europe is riding the rails. A journal, great music on the iPod, and a window seat on a train… that’s the sort of stuff that changes your life.

  11. The pics are so damn beautiful I didnt read the post. I kept staring at them and imagine myself there. Wonderful pics Matt. You could start a photoblog you see :)
    And you shot those from trains?? Holy flyin buffalow! They are terrific then.

  12. You captured the beauty of the countryside PERFECTLY Matt! You gave me an idea, next year I will be visiting Europe and I guess I will give Eurail a try.. seeing these beautiful places is really a wonderful experience.

  13. There is a pass available for about 450 euros which allows unlimited train travel in 30 different European countries for 22 days. I think there is a 14 day and a months pass available too.

  14. Rickey

    Europe is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and the rail europe offers the most enjoyable option to view this country. No other place on Earth offers so much to do in so little time. Besides being steeped in rich history and culture, rail europe is also a beautiful and relaxing experience all over the continent. Of course, there is a decision to be made about how to get from land to land in this gorgeous area. There is no other way to see so much and relax in amazing comfort at the same time.

    To travel Europe by rail you will need to obtain some rail passes. This is not difficult in the least and is far more cost effective than air travel. The best way to get rail passes is to go through a travel agent. You will need to tell them how many destinations that you intend to visit while you travel Europe by rail. The travel agent will be able to work out a great package deal for you that will get all you want to see into the amount of days that you have available. There are also several preset travel Europe by rail deals that give you only the best of what the land has to offer. Check with your travel agent to determine what the best package is for you and the pricing that is available.

    When you travel rail europe there are many destinations that you will surely want to visit to make the vacation unforgettable to say the least. Prague is one such destination. To travel Europe by rail and not stop in Prague is a big mistake. Besides being one of the most beautiful cities in the world, it has a rich nightlife and wonderful attractions for everyone. Stop in for some of the best cuisine that the world has to offer.

    Venice is another must see destination when you travel Europe by rail. Venice has been touted as the number one spot for tourists all over the world. This is no surprise considering the overall appeal of the city and its historical richness. Be sure to visit one of the wonderful cafés that line most of the streets.

    Finally you will want to stop in at Munich when you travel Europe by rail. As a city, Munich provides something for everyone. The night is always alive in Munich with nightclubs and jazz centers as well as great theater and film houses. Do not leave until you have visited some of the fine restaurants in the area as well. You will not regret it for sure.

    Next time you take a vacation be sure to check into a package that will allow you to travel Europe by rail. Not only will you travel to some of the finest locations across the continent, you will do so in high style and comfort, not having to worry about long lines to get through an airport terminal. Travel Europe by rail and enjoy.

  15. Kever

    The #1 best way to see Europe is by automobile! Yo have to wait for trains and travel where they go. If you have a car, you have total freedom. Costs less too. To make Eurail pay, you would have to keep moving all day everyday.

    • NomadicMatt

      That’s not true at all. Eurail passes work out if you are going vast distances. Plus there are a lot of different passes you can get too. Personally, I love the trains. You just sit back and relax and watch the country side go by and since trains pretty much go everywhere in Europe, there’s usually not a place I can miss. But cars have an advantage too. Too each their own!

  16. Nicko B.

    the train ride between munich and venice is one of the most amazing train rides i have ever taken. oh by the way i wish i would have found your website before the trip i just took, but an up is you have just inspired me to become a nomad! i had the idea while overseas and almost jumped right into it but i had obligations i had to take care. i wrote a blog as well. it was quickly and poorly written but i did what i could with what spare time i had. if you want to check it out let me know

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