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Travel Tuesday: Experience Europe Aboard Luxurious Trains

Rediscover the European continent on a spectacular winter train journey

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By House & Garden | January 9, 2024 | Travel Leisure

Take the slow route past Europe's most scenic snow-capped mountains, fjords and frozen rivers.

While some people travel to escape the winter in the colder months, others like to lean in and make the most of the snowy season. One of the most romantic ways to watch nature at its wintry best is aboard a slow-moving locomotive.

Luckily, Europe has plenty of options when it comes to luxurious and scenic winter train rides. From a steam railway riding through Germany's dense forests to a luxurious Swiss ski train with unlimited champagne and a Scottish sleeper trains that whizz past dramatic loch landscapes, read on for our favourite rides for window watching.

GoldenPass Express, Swiss Alps

GoldenPass Express, the new seamless route between Interlaken, Gstaad and Montreux, has been in the making for over a hundred years. Up until recently, Switzerland's ‘GoldenPass Express’ (one of our favourite train journeys) was actually a five hour journey connecting the charming mountain towns of Montreux, Gstaad and Interlaken with three separate trains. But since December 2022, a revolutionary new train that literally jumps separate tracks by changing heights and wheel settings has arrived. The new hassle-free journey goes between Montreux and Interlaken and passes through some of Switzerland's most scenic views, whizzing through the Vaud Riviera with the Bernese Alps and Pays-d’Enhaut.

GoldenPass Express, Swiss Alps. Image via Unsplash.

Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Route: Paris to Venice, Austria, Florence or Verona

For the first time ever, Belmond's legendary Venice Simplon-Orient-Express has launched winter routes so passengers can soak in Europe's snowy landscapes and festive charm aboard one of the world's most decadent trains. Journeys either start or finish in Paris so you'll get to see the City of Lights at its most dazzling Christmas best. Inside, things are just as spectacular, think opulent interiors with plush velvet furnishings in rich jewel tones, dark wood walls, and attentive service that can't be beat.

For the first time ever, Belmond's legendary Venice Simplon-Orient-Express has launched winter routes. Image via Unsplash

The Glacier Express, Switzerland

Route: Zermatt and St. Moritz via Andermatt, Switzerland

Switzerlands Alpine towns look straight out of a fairytale. One of the most enjoyable way to see them is by slowly whizzing past aboard the The Glacier Express which travels between Zermatt and St. Moritz on a delightful eight-hour journey that crosses 291 bridges and through 91 tunnels. If you really want to take your expedition up a notch try their new excellence class which guarantees a window seat, a six-course menu paired with wine from the Glacier Bar, and possibly most excitingly – unlimited champagne.

Harz Narrow Gauge Railways (Harzer Schmalspurbahnen), Germany

Route: Several but Wernigerode to Brocken is the most spectacular of the journeys available

Germany's train, Harz Railway, has several routes around the Harz mountains, running to the summit of of Mount Brocken. It's a beautifully preserved steam train which chugs past magnificent winter landscapes, forests and lakes. The railway opened in 189 and quickly became a major tourist attraction but as CNN reports, from August 1961 onward, the area was declared a military exclusion zone by the East German government and the summit plateau was sealed behind a concrete wall. The railway was retained as a supply route for troops and intelligence agents but would not see tourist traffic again until 1990.

One of Belmond’s iconic bar cars. Image via Belmond.

Caledonian Sleeper, Scotland

Route: London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen or Fort William

There's nothing quite as romantic as waking up aboard a luxury overnight train and catching dawn crack over the countryside. The Caledonian Sleeper connects London with several Scottish cities, meaning you can fall asleep in the city and wake up to the magical glens of the Highlands, dramatic loch landscapes and of course, as real Harry Potter fans know, the Glenfinnan Viaduct. Inside, this Scottish overnight train is more like a hotel on rails thanks to a recent makeover.

Golden Eagle Danube Express, Austria

Route: Budapest, Keszthely, Vienna, Prague

The Danube Express's New Years Eve route might be the most festive of the wintry train routes in Europe. Starting with two nights in Budapest's Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace, the journey begins with a champagne reception on departure with a brass band performance, the luxury train then only gets more festive from there, with Christmas market stops, Viennese Waltz lessons, horse-drawn carriage rides and a New Year’s Eve Gala featuring the Wiener Hofball Orchestra. All the while, the scenery takes you from Austria's snow-capped mountains into Budapest's mesmerising neo-gothic cityscape.

This story originally appeared on House & Garden UK