Train holidays are a great way to escape the challenges of travelling by air. You can embrace traveling by train when crossing from one city to another, to explore a large country. Or you can take this carefree mood of transport to reach your holiday destination if you’re escaping to the seaside, countryside or visiting a medieval town.
As domestic tourism has opened and international travel follows, we thought we’d explain how you can travel safely during a train holiday and share some of the greatest railway journeys in the world…
The Best European Train Holidays and Breaks
At the time of writing, the majority (if not all) of Europe’s countries appear on the FCDO’s amber or green list. This means you don’t need to quarantine on your return to the UK. However, if you’re still unsure view our previous blog, which provides a table of countries on the green list.
Remember that wherever you’re headed, you’ll need both your passport and COVID vaccine passport to enjoy a train holiday in Europe. Train trips in Europe include…
Luxury Train Holidays on the Orient Express
Step back in time to experience the golden age of rail on the Orient Express. Board in London and walk through decorative, 1920s carriages to a restaurant car, to taste local delicacies. During a unique dining experience watch mountains, meadows and sheep slip by, before awaking in an exquisite suite. Indulge in a special breakfast, which celebrates the exceptional, artisanal cuisine of Europe.
Enjoy the remainder of your journey within your plush suite. Look out the window and watch the landscape change and come to life in Venice. Orient Express trips also include stops at Amsterdam, Brussels, Budapest, Paris and Prague, and Verona. This is one luxury train holiday that you might want to add to your bucket list. For a modern and comfortable train holiday pick a Eurostar break…
Eurostar City Breaks
During a Eurostar holiday, you’ll have the opportunity to take in many of Europe’s top sights within a range of cities, each with its own character. A city break can be started in just a few hours, after departing from London St Pancras International. Eurostar’s trains can take you on direct routes to Paris, Brussels, Lille, Amsterdam, and Rotterdam.
You can also change in Paris, Lille, or Brussels to board connecting trains. For instance, you could travel direct to Paris and stay for a couple of days, before boarding a train to transfer to Disneyland Paris.
Eurostar city breaks when booked as packages, will include rail travel, transfers to different destinations, and accommodation. Like most package holidays, UK law states that it must be protected. So, you should have legal protection included.
However, you’ll still require travel insurance for unexpected events, such as if you fall ill. This is where Free Spirit travel insurance can help. We can provide you with a medical emergency helpline – 24 hours a day, compensation for every 24 hours you’re in the hospital, and more.
Where can I go for a Eurostar city break?
- Travel to Barcelona, Spain; the capital of Catalonia. Select from a choice of top sightseeing tours or visit Sagrada Familia. The best time to avoid the humid temperatures? Go in March, May, and mid-September – October.
- Cologne, the cultural hub of Germany. During a three-night Eurostar city break, check out a gothic cathedral, admire the ornate architecture and depart for a Rhine River Sightseeing cruise. If you want more time on the train, take a short train trip along the Rhine Valley, from Cologne to Mainz. This riverside route takes you through various vineyards, Koblenz (Ehrenbreitstein) hilltop fortress the second largest in Europe, and Lorelei Rock.
- Nice, the French Riviera; to embrace the sun-drenched glamour of the Cote d’Azur. A fond trip for foodies. Tuck into the region’s wine and cheeses during a tasting tour! Spending more time in southern France? Make your way to Nîmes to experience a railway journey to Clermont-Ferrand. Said to be an engineering marvel, follow the track through 106 tunnels, 1000 bridges, and along the 46m high Chamborigaud viaduct.
Flexible Train Holidays in Europe
Want the flexibility and freedom to design your own European train holiday? Fly into a country, before plotting a unique rail route! You’ll be able to visit a number of cosmopolitan European cities and stay for as long as you wish, throughout your train holiday.
For example, your train holiday could start in Italy. Here, you can find a number of unique rail routes which start from Rome, Venice, and Milan. However, some of the best rail routes finish in Italy! For example, for jaw-dropping and ear-popping views, book the Bernina Express. This trans-alpine train trip starts in Landquart, Switzerland, and finishes in Tirano.
Wherever you go in Europe, much has changed since the dawn of Brexit. So refer to our Brexit travel guide for more information.
If you want to plan the holiday of a lifetime and think train travel may be the best way to go, why not travel by train around the world? One of the best train journeys in the world is actually in Europe…
The Best Train Journeys in the World
Switzerland Train Holidays
A train holiday, trip, or tour in Switzerland will encourage you to travel along scenic rail routes, which glide past twinkling lakes and snowy mountains.
Gaze at magical landscapes through panoramic windows, with the freedom to change routes and the flexibility to stop along the way. If you stop at a ski resort. Or do any winter sports on the route, add Winter Sports to your policy to be covered.
Top Scenic Train Holidays in Switzerland:
- The GoldenPass/Luzern-Interlaken Express will take you around Switzerland’s heartland. Peering through panoramic windows, let the idyllic lakes, countryside, and mountain passes take your breath away. Departing from Lucerne, the GoldenPass line will trundle from Interlaken to Zweisimmen, into the Simmen Valley. Then up to the mountainous alpine resort of Gstaad – a picturesque place to ski.
- Looking for a different way to arrive in Italy? Jump aboard the Bernina Express in Chur, the country’s oldest city. After descending through the Alps, you’ll arrive in northern Italy. Said to be Switzerland’s most scenic journey. You’ll ride past castles, mountain-ringed Lake Bianco; through 55 tunnels, along 196 bridges, and the famous Landwasser Viaduct. The train will negotiate snow, ice, and steep gradients, while you relax with refreshments.
- The grand train tour of Switzerland combines all of Switzerland’s scenic railway routes. To create a super Swiss train holiday give yourself 5- 17 days to cover 1,280 km’s of beauty, Switzerland’s stunning cities, and mighty mountain excursions. As you drift past 11 large lakes; observe 4 official languages, unique landmarks, and 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites while hopping on/off wherever you choose.
If the mountainous peaks of Switzerland take your breath away, some of the greatest mountain railway journeys can also be found in Canada.
Canadian Train Holidays
Canada is the second-largest country in the world, with a story to tell around every corner. Although most of the population live in and around the city of Toronto and the province of Ontario, a Canadian railway tour is a way to appreciate its National Parks and mighty mountains.
Top Canadian rocky mountain train routes:
- First Passage to the West, which is the only passenger rail service of its kind that can take you from east (Banff/Lake Louise) to west (Vancouver) Canada. A historic rail route that runs through spiral tunnels, mountain passes, and dramatic canyons.
- Journey through the clouds, for two days, from Vancouver to Jasper. Witness Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, and ascend into the mountains through wilderness and the scenic Fraser River Valley to explore Jasper National Park.
- Rainforest to gold rush, where you can stop at Whistler, a top mountain resort if you love winter sports. You’ll also see secret lakes and learn about the gold rush while passing gold-flecked canyons. Your final stop is Quesnel, a natural hideaway for mountain biking, fishing, and hiking.
Each rail route provides an award-winning service that includes three-course meals using local ingredients, panoramic views and outdoor viewing areas. Plus, gourmet sweets, snacks, and beverages are in plentiful supply throughout. You can even book a circular rail route that combines two of the routes above.
All routes can be as long or short as you wish. They are carefully curated into packages, complete with hotel accommodation and meals, car rentals in the Rockies, daily tours and experiences.
Fancy somewhere warmer? Head down under!
The Ghan, Train Holiday in Australia
If you want to admire Australia’s outback in pure luxury, travel from the south to Australia’s Red Centre, on the Ghan. An authentic locomotive, the Ghan is known as one of the greatest rail expeditions world over.
Travel in comfort with a glass of Australian wine from Adelaide to Alice Springs, or all the way to Darwin, northern territory. With gourmet meals under the stars, excursions such as trips to Kangaroo Island and Alice Springs, as well as comfortable cabins this all-inclusive train holiday has a lot to offer.
More train holidays in Australia:
- The Indian Pacific, Trans-Australian Railway route. Head from Sydney to Perth crossing the Nullarbor plain to see Australia’s hidden gems such as the silent town of Cook.
- The Overland, which will take you from Melbourne to Adelaide in one day. This route is said to be the best way to travel between the two cities.
- The Great Southern, from Adelaide to Brisbane. A route full of sunkissed beaches, forested peaks, and cultural capital cities.
On the other hand, if you want to enjoy a train holiday much closer to home, here are some train journeys to choose from.
UK Rail Tours and Holidays
You can enjoy a UK train holiday during a long weekend. Or add one around an event. Either way, there are lots of heritage railway lines to trundle down in the UK.
Where can I find a train holiday in the UK?
The Isle of Man
Known as the jewel of the Irish Sea. Embrace a slower way of life by rail on The Isle of Man. Explore traditional, seaside resorts and take in views of rolling hills on a unique historic railway line.
Feel free to escape to the Manx National Heritage attractions, on two different rail routes. Each route starts at Douglas. You can roll into Port Erin, stop at Castletown and visit the ancient fishing port of Peel.
A railway holiday in Scotland can be achieved in 10 days. Admire iconic landscapes and well-known attractions, such as the West Highland line between Fort William and Mallaig, as well as Edinburgh Castle. To reach key cities and destinations in Scotland, travel independently on a sleeper train from London. All aboard the Caledonian Sleeper! Then, you can book your choice of accommodation at Inverness, Fort William, or Glasgow and design the rest of your holiday in Scotland the way you want.
Steam Trips across the UK
If you’re looking for something a little bit different during a UK holiday discover a rail tour on an iconic steam locomotive. Jump aboard a steam train and travel a variety of lines up and down the UK from Hampshire to the West Highlands. For more UK train holiday destinations and how to enjoy train travel, read our guide.
Travel Insurance for Train Holidays
Free Spirit offers travel insurance for the UK, which is also included with an Annual Multi-trip policy, if your holiday is in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, or Wales.
Whatever the destination, take Free Spirit and go full steam ahead for a train holiday post lockdown!