As post-Covid travel surges, luxury train travel in Europe is an amazing option to experience the world in the comfort of posh surroundings.
Is there anything more reminiscent of days gone by and the nostalgia that comes with it than luxury train travel in Europe through different countries? Not just on normal passenger trains, but sumptuous upgraded ones that chug their way through interesting places like Paris, London and Budapest.
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As global travel surges, especially post-COVID, luxury train travel in Europe is an amazing option to experience the continent in the comfort of stylishly refurbished railways, where you get world-class service from uniformed attendants. These posh train journeys really allow you to live out your aristocratic and nostalgic dreams of the golden age of rail travel as you get to really immerse in the majestic, elegant environment that is created for the discerning traveler.
With so many luxury rail journeys available throughout Europe, it all comes down to the region you want to experience. While this mode of travel can be heavy on the purse strings, avid travelers should definitely embark on such a journey at least once in their lifetime. Or if you are looking for something a little more accessible, then you can check out the options that Eurail has.
Having used Eurail’s first-class service across 10 countries, I shared the details about it here. Other notable trips included one of the sleeper trains from Budapest to Bucharest, and a trip above the Arctic Circle in Sweden.
Below are some of the best in luxury train travel that you can find in the world and each one is truly worth the experience.
The Legendary Venice Simplon-Orient-Express: The Epitome of Luxury Train Travel in Europe
When one thinks of luxury train trips, the most famous of them all is the Orient Express. Immortalized by Agatha Christie in her famous book ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, this luxury legendary railway pioneered train journeys as an opulent glamourous affair, with its ornate Art Deco interiors and attentive service. Even though this iconic train is out of commission, many options allow you to experience a similar glamorous luxury train tour.
On top of the list is the legendary Venice Simplon Orient Express. This remarkable heritage Belmond train was restored and includes original carriages from the iconic train, the Orient Express. This legendary train is the epitome of elegance, as it invokes the glamor of the 1920s with its luxurious suites, vintage interiors, and liveried service.
Although there are a number of routes available, the most popular is the overnight journey from the London Victoria station. You board the Belmond British Pullman train after checking your bags in to start off your luxury train journey towards Venice. Dress up to the nines to enjoy sumptuous food in the exquisite dining rooms or explore the opulent carriages and engage in small talk with fellow passengers who are just as adventurous as you in the lounge car.
When sleep is the last thing on your mind, head on over to the bar car to indulge in a midnight brunch, featuring lobster rolls and drinks, while an in-house pianist plays live music. The revelry can continue well into the night, after which you stumble back to your historic cabins (3 service levels are available from which to choose: Grand Suites, Suites, and Historic Cabins) to lay down for a spot of slumber. If you are looking for a luxurious and historic once-in-a-lifetime experience, book yourself onto the Venice Simplon Orient Express and choose from the various routes that are available.
If traversing the British landscape is on your wish list, then book a trip aboard the Northern Belle, a luxury train tour that harks back to the golden age of travel. On board the opulent restored 1930s carriages, you will experience fine dining, and luxurious accommodations while you also disembark for day trips, making for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
One of the best things about this train is that you can embark on it from various points in Britain, making it a versatile and accessible option. The cuisine is an important part of the experience, as the chefs on board create exquisite food using locally harvested fresh ingredients. Seat yourself in the beautifully detailed carriages with their intricate murals, each carriage named after British castles and state homes, and peer out the windows to watch the spectacular scenery go by; you will surely be glad to have taken this luxury rail tour.
Belmond Royal Scotsman
If your destination is the Scottish Highlands, then the best choice is the Belmond Royal Scotsman, which starts its journey from Edinburgh and goes down to the coast of Aberdeen. This luxury sleeper train is reminiscent of an Edwardian country house, with Scottish tartans and stunning woodwork highlighting the understated extravagance of the carriages. The train allows for 40 passengers which makes for an intimate gathering that allows for truly personalized and attentive service, complete with private bathrooms.
Inside the mahogany-lined dining cars you can indulge in refined cuisine as Scotland’s scenery rolls by, providing a stunning backdrop. The private cabins are luxurious with plush bedding to give you a restful sleep; and if you are in need of further relaxation then head to the on-board spa, where you can enjoy some pampering.
You can observe the Scottish Highlands in the comfort of the train’s observation car or step out onto the open-air veranda to truly take in the magnificence of the English countryside complete with castles, glens, and natural beauty. The Belmond Royal Scotsman provides different itineraries to its customers, ranging from a 2-day journey up to a 7-day one, which makes it a very versatile option in the UK’s luxury rail journeys.
Golden Eagle Luxury Trains
Golden Eagle Luxury rails have been in operation for over 30 years and have luxury rail journeys worldwide, including in Russia, Central and Eastern Europe and China. All of the trains are elegant hotels on wheels with top class attentive service and comfortable accommodations. As there are multiple routes that the Golden Eagle railways traverse, let’s check out the European leg on board the Danube Express.
If you are looking for a long-distance extravagant train journey that starts off from the lesser-explored cities of Eastern Europe, then the Golden Eagle Danube Express is your answer. This train journey passes through the cities of Krakow and Budapest to Istanbul. This steam-powered sophisticated train feels like a luxury hotel, with its brass fixtures, wood-paneled interiors, and attentive service. Enjoy a 3-course elegant Hungarian meal in the dining car or relax in your comfortable suites, as you contemplate about your next stop on your slow travel across Europe.
Spain is one of the most beautiful places in the world, with its rich heritage and stunning architecture. Therefore, what better way to experience the country’s scenic beauty than aboard a luxury train. Since the landscape and vibe across the country is different due to how vast it is, you could either explore Northern Spain with the Transcantabrico Gran Lujo Train or Southern Spain with Al Andalus.
Transcantabrico Gran Lujo Train
A journey on board this luxury rail is one of glamour, nostalgia and comfort, while you embark on an 8-day ride across Northern Spain. As the train winds over narrow-gauge lines across the Basque country, you get to enjoy first-rate cuisine in the dining car or the spectacular views from the panoramic windows. The appointed rooms with private bathrooms are comfortable and thoughtfully designed, making for a truly charming stay.
The journey takes you through some of Spain’s cultural gems, like foodie heaven San Sebastian and Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, while passing through the Cantabrian Mountains. The museum provides a modern architectural contrast to the charming buildings of the past and is a sight to behold. This shimmering iconic building is as famous for its titanium exteriors as it is for its vast, cathedral-like interiors, housing both permanent and temporary art collections. This and many more spectacular attractions make the Gran Lujo train a wonderful way to experience Northern Spain.
Southern Spain is renowned for its Moorish architecture and warm climate. To explore this part of Spain, get on board the Al Andalus. The journey starts from Seville and makes its way across the beautiful countryside over a period of 7 days. The train is sophisticated and spacious which makes for a comfortable train journey. You can either relax in the train’s four elegant lounge cars or enjoy meals that include a la carte breakfast and a 3-course fine dining meal. Every night after dinner, you can enjoy live entertainment and dancing but if you are looking for something quieter, you can always retire to a lounge or your comfortable room.
A great feature of this iconic train is that you get to explore the many wonderful monuments and UNESCO Heritage sites in cities like Granada, Cordoba etc. These day trips are in the company of multilingual guides that truly help you experience the rich culture and magnificent architecture of Southern Spain.
Switzerland is easily one of the most stunning destinations on earth, with dreamy vistas and stunning scenery. From rolling meadows to the snow-capped Swiss Alps, this tri-lingual country is truly magnificent.
If you want to experience a journey of landscape contrasts with phenomenally spectacular views, then Bernina Express should be on your European luxury train trip list. Part of the Euro-rail network, leave the regional train this time as Bernina Express is one of the luxury European train tours that you don’t want to miss.
What’s truly unique about this journey is that it goes through 55 tunnels and over 196 bridges as it takes you through Switzerland’s stunning Alpine landscapes with icy glaciers to the balmy Italian town of Tirano, dotted with palm trees. The train also passes the railway track between Thusis and Tirano, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, due to its masterful design and construction. You can experience the Swiss Alps and the many inclines in the journey through the panoramic windows of the train.
Another legendary train journey that is part of Switzerland’s repertoire of luxury rail tours is the Glacier Express. Your 8-hour full day journey starts from Zermatt, as this slow train chugs along the railway track towards the sophisticated city of St Moritz (or vice versa).
The train offers panoramic windows through which you can marvel at the spectacular scenery. The services that are offered include an exclusive bar, 5-course lunch and on-board entertainment. If you have time on your hands, you can also combine both the Glacier Express and Bernina Express so you can truly experience a luxury train journey with sights to behold.
Luxury travel and more specifically, luxury train travel is on the rise. And why not? It allows you to experience one-of-a-kind personalized service and enjoy delicious cuisine in beautiful surroundings, with minimum stress of planning. The world is your oyster, as you can select from a myriad of world-class sleeper train journeys that whisk you across magnificent, diverse landscapes, all in the comfort of a prestigious 5-star hotel-like environment. If travel-lust courses through your veins, then you should definitely add luxury train travel to your bucket list of experiences.