Train tours to Western Europe
Travel Europe by train!
Europe is the continent of trains. There's no continent with more railroad lines than Europe! criss-cross the continent to discover its incredible historical heritage and the diversity of its cultures.
Europe, the rail travel continent
By its very nature and history, Europe is the land of rail travel. It boasts the world's most developed and well-connected rail networks. Whether you choose to travel by scheduled or luxury train, Europe offers a wide choice of itineraries linking city centers and offering sumptuous landscapes.
Railroads first appeared in Europe and from the 1850s until the First World War, they enjoyed an incredible boom. The railway enthusiasm of the time gave rise to thousands of kilometers of track, notably in Great Britain, Germany and France.
Caught up and then overtaken by automobile transport, rail travel then went through a period of disenchantment. But in the 1970s, the oil crisis and the advent of high-speed trains boosted rail travel. For some years now, train travel in Europe has been back in vogue: less polluting than air travel, it benefits from a positive image and renewed interest.
European trains, European borders
29 European countries have a national rail network, and high-speed rail lines exist in 6 European countries: Spain, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands and Great Britain. These networks are connected, and agreements exist between states. But national train reservation systems rarely allow you to book train tours across Europe that take place outside their borders. To create your own tour on a regular European train, Discovery Trains uses the various national rail offers or proposes InterRail passes (a low-cost solution that allows you to travel on almost all European trains).
European countries and rail culture
European citizens have different attitudes to rail travel. On average, a member of the European Union travels 814 km per year by train, while a Swiss travels over 2,400 km. The European countries with the strongest train culture are: Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, France, Hungary, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Belgium and the UK.
Luxury trains Travel in Europe
Europe is also the land of luxury train travel. The most famous of these, the Venice Simplon Orient Express, inspired by the legendary Orient Express train, crosses the entire European continent, leaving London once a year for Istanbul. If you'd like to try it out for less time (and on a smaller budget), you can of course choose the romantic train itinerary par excellence: Paris-Venice VSOE.
In addition to the VSOE, if you're dreaming of traveling by train in Europe aboard a "hotel on rails", you can also board the Golden Eagle Danube Express, which crosses all of Eastern Europe and allows you to spend an incredible New Year's Eve in Vienna, Austria. A little simpler, but still very comfortable and affordable, are the Spanish luxury trains. El Transcantabrico and El Expreso de la Robla are to be found on the northern routes, particularly on the route to Santiago de Compostela. In the south, you can enjoy the comfort of the El Andalus train to discover Seville and Cordoba.
Special trains and package train tours in Europe
Although they don't fall into the "luxury train travel" category, some European trains do offer an original train travel experience. In this respect, Switzerland is Europe's best-endowed country. Here, you'll find state-of-the-art panorama trains like the Gottard Panorama Express, and other trains linking very high stations (Glacier Express or Bernina Express).
Scotland is also at the forefront with the highly cinematic Jacobite Steam Train, better known to Harry Potter fans as the Hogwarts Express, which comes to embody the prototype of the historic train, with its plume of white smoke, as it crosses the Glenfinnan viaduct and its 21 arches.
Of course, original or historic trains alone do not constitute rail cruises, like luxury trains. But if you combine these special trains with other tourist services, you get a truly organized train tour of Europe, with or without a guide. And this formula is proving increasingly popular.
Night train travel in Europe
Last but not least, a new form of train travel in Europe has been developing apace of late. We're talking about night train travel. The Paris-Vienna night train was recently launched: the fruit of cooperation between SNCF and ÖBB Nightjet, it covers the 1400 km between Paris and Vienna in one night. You can try it out on our special Duo train tour: Vienna and Prague. But the Paris-Vienna is only the first in a series.
A second European night train from Paris is due to open in December 2023: Paris-Brussels. And further variations on sleeper train travel in Europe are planned over the next 2 years: a night train line will link Zurich-Rome via Milan, another Zurich-Barcelona and Berlin-Brussels. You won't be waking up in Europe's train stations!