Here at Trainline, we think there’s no better way to see Europe than by train. We’re so convinced of this that we made a film to showcase the full breadth of incredible scenery you can see from the window seats of trains whizzing across the continent.
So what did we do?
We recruited some willing filmmakers and sent them on a railway adventure through Europe that took them across five countries in four days. Armed with a camera and some window cleaner, they captured breathtaking footage of the entire route. From the dense forests of the Rhine Valley to the snow-capped mountains of the Swiss Alps, along the Mediterranean coast from Nice to Marseille and then across the frontier into Spain, they saw and seized it all. In the film, extreme glimpses of nature contrasts with scenes from everyday life in the European cities and towns they passed, giving you a taste of all of the wonderful things you’d never see from the window of a plane.
Our favourite routes
If you liked what you saw in the film, we’ve highlighted some of our favourite routes for you. Read on for more information about what you can see on each leg of this magnificent journey.
From colossal to quaint
The journey from Cologne to Konstanz, Germany can make you feel as if you’re exiting one world and entering another. From the fourth largest and most liberal city in Germany to little Konstanz, a treasured enclave with historical remnants dating back to the Stone Age, kept intact and resting like a precious jewel where the Rhine River spills into Lake Constance.
There are numerous options for stopovers on this journey, but no matter your choice, all of them will sweep you along the romantic Rhine River Valley where green is king. Peer out your window and behold the most dramatic landscapes that Germany has to offer, from plummeting hills with meandering vineyards to cliffsides that seem to have broken under the weight of such abundant beauty—and all of it dappled with fairytale villages where timber-framed houses and church steeples peer back at you through your window as if from another time.
This is a longer journey, but much to the benefit of your one-of-a-kind experience. Make this a day trip, with 7-9 hours of train travel between Cologne and Konstanz. Tickets should run between €63 and €74, a small price to pay for such a memorable migration.
Chur is the quintessential Alpine city and, like Konstanz, will make your heart swell with sentimental memories of reading Grimm’s Fairy Tales as a child. It’s a quiet and charming village where you can explore the little streets by foot and offers sweet recess to any weary traveller. And if your feet are tired, you’ll be grateful to sit back, relax, and allow yourself to be tucked into the Alpine Rhine on a calm train ride from Konstanz to Chur.
Amble along the edge of Lake Constance, shining like an emerald beneath the crystal sky, then watch it dwindle into the distance as you ramble down into the quaint and tranquil countryside of the Alps. Brown Swiss cows with big warm eyes and bells around their necks chew away and watch your train fly by, wondering where anyone could be headed in such a great hurry—this is clearly the only place to be.
The excursion from Konstanz to Chur should take nearly 3 hours, but we recommend the route with a transfer in St. Gallen which takes 2 hours and 23 minutes. You’ll pay between €36 to €62 for this journey into what seems like an imaginary world, and a memory to keep with you forever.
Nougat and amaretti
There’s much to be said about train journeys between Zürich, Switzerland and Milan, Italy, but most people are speechless when their feet touch the platform. In this case, pictures truly speak louder than words. Passing through hidden tunnels and over stunning viaducts, hugging steep hillsides that seem to drop into the abyss and then ascend back into the Alpine sky, trains from Switzerland to Italy will knock off your lederhosen and invigorate your senses like the hot shot of espresso awaiting you in the Bel Paese.
A magnificent journey like this can cost between €29 and €122, depending which route you choose and how early you book. You can expect a direct train from Zürich to Milan to take 3 and a half hours, but once on board, you’ll wish it would last forever.
Nice is known for its stunning turquoise waterfront, its perfect sunlit climate, and ratatouille! You can expect hordes of French families to be splayed across its perfect sunny beaches from July ‘til August during the French holiday months, but Nice is nice to visit any time of the year.
Marseille is the second-largest city in France and it’s known for being intense and different from any other place in the country—it has its own unique culture and is buzzing with life.
The ride by train from Nice to Marseille is no less extraordinary than these two towns. From the window of this train you’ll see hues of blues you’ve never imagined as you sail by train along the Mediterranean coastline through historical cities like Antibes, Cannes, Toulon and eventually into the city of Pastis with plenty of pastiche, Marseille!
This journey will take between 2 and a half to 3 hours, during which time you’ll wish you didn’t ever need to blink. Depending on whether you choose a route via TGV or TER, the cost for this ride can fall anywhere between €9 and €80. We always suggest booking online and as early as possible to benefit from the cheapest available fares!
The mountains surrounding the capital of Spain greet you with a welcoming balmy hug. Madrid is everything they say it will be and will leave you wanting more, but all good things must come to an end (except those never-ending tapas) and Andalusia is singing your name. The journey to Málaga from Madrid will swing you through the extremes of Spain’s varied landscapes and drop you teetering on the edge of its dazzling aqua coastline. At moments, you could imagine yourself racing across the terrain of the wild, wild west, but once you climb into the hills of Andalusia, you will know undeniably where you are, because there is nothing else like it on Earth.
Between these cities and others, like Cordoba and Antequera, you can expect to see picturesque scenery as you soar past national parks and nature reserves with mountain ranges that linger like watchful giants all along the horizon. Upon entering Málaga your train and your universe will slow to a halt, allowing you all the time in the world to soak up the sun and dive into the bottomless paella that this city has to offer.
The train from Madrid to Málaga should take up a little less than 3 hours of your time, which will indeed be precious. The fare runs between €40 to €95 and, as usual, the earlier you book the less you can expect to pay. More bang for your buck, as we say!