The speed with which planes allow us to traverse the world is pretty impressive, but when it comes to taking the scenic route, trains have it down. In Europe, some of the best eye-candy comes from a train trip in the Alps, the mountain range that extends approximately 750 miles across eight countries, including France, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy. Crawling through valleys and tunnels carved into mountains, over towering viaducts, along glaciers, and on tracks built over a century ago, these trains might not be the quickest way to get from point A to point B, but they are the most beautiful. Without further ado, here are five of the most scenic train trips in the Alps.
The Glacier Express is arguably the most famous alpine line in Europe. During an epic seven-hour journey, the train makes its way from the luxury resort town of St. Moritz to the mountain resort town of Zermatt, both in Switzerland. Despite being named the Glacier Express, the train takes things slow, winding through the UNESCO-designated landscape, crossing roughly 280 bridges, and going in and out of 90 tunnels. Dissecting the Alps, the ride also offers a great view of the Matterhorn (that’s the mountain that inspired the shape of Toblerone chocolate, in case you didn’t know).
Taking the Bernina Express from Davos to Tirano is one seriously beautiful way to cross into Italy from Switzerland. Running on a UNESCO-designated track, the red carriages crawl up long, vertigo-inducing ascents and down heart-in-mouth descents. Taking around three hours and 45 minutes, the ride also brings passengers through 50 tunnels and over 200 bridges. The curved windows offer stunning views of the Alps along the way.
Built in the mid-1800s, this line opened up a passageway for luxury travel between London and Bucharest, when it originally served the classic Orient Express. Since the golden age of train travel has faded, the line has become more accustomed to sightseers who ride the electric trains between Innsbruck and Bludenz. (The round-trip journey, which goes through the Arlberg Pass, is about five hours.)
Built between 1848 and 1854, the Semmering Railway is another feat of engineering that’s recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was the first mountain railway in Europe to be built with a standard gauge track. Journeying from Wiener Neustadt to Bruck an der Mur, the line runs through amazing forest scenes, over 100 stone bridges, and in and out of a 4,700-foot-long tunnel. The views are unsurprisingly spectacular.
The beautiful alpine landscape that the GoldenPass Line meanders through will leave you picking your jaw up off the floor. Designed to make the most of the scenery, the train is decked out with comfortable armchair seating and panoramic windows for prime viewing of the mountain peaks. Split into three sections (meaning you can divide it up if time is tight), the train travels through Switzerland, from Montreux to Zweisimmen, Zweisimmen to Interlaken, and Interlaken to Lucerne. Along the way, it displays views of Lake Sarnen and Lake Lungern, as well as forests, pretty villages, and picturesque Swiss meadows.
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