Melk Abbey in the Wachau valley.

‘I took my Brompton on the train to Armenia’: readers’ favourite European rail journeys

Oslo to Bergen, Norway

Take a trip from Oslo to Bergen on Vy, the Norwegian state railway (I was delighted to get a senior’s ticket – a usual Norwegian courtesy), a journey of scenic delight at any time of the year, and stop over at Myrdal. There, buy a return ticket for the Flåm Railway, for a 12-mile journey that takes you down the mountains, travelling through tunnels and behind waterfalls to the village of Flåm alongside the Aurlandsfjord. An overnight stay at the Fretheim hotel inclusive of dinner and breakfast will revive the most weary traveller. The next morning, head back to the mountain top at Myrdal to continue the train journey to Bergen.
Paul Snazell

Salzburg to Vienna, Austria

Melk Abbey in the Wachau valley.
Photograph: Sorin Colac/Alamy

For several months I lived in the town of Amstetten, Austria. Unfortunately, few tourists make it to this charming small town, but it is ideally located to explore the fabulous Salzburg-Vienna rail route. To the east, the train follows the course of the Danube River, arriving at central Vienna in one hour. On an early winter morning you can see the sun rising across the landscape, boats bobbing along the river, and it is worth stopping off at surprising Melk Abbey en route. To the west, you can travel to Linz or Salzburg, seeing the country rise from the flats of Lower Austria to its mountainous region. Sarah Collings


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Mostar to Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

A view out of the train window between Sarajevo and Mostar.
A view out of the train window between Sarajevo and Mostar. Photograph: Miles Astray/Alamy

The two-hour train journey from Mostar to Sarajevo in Bosnia takes you through breathtaking scenery in one of the most underrated parts of Europe. Bosnia is, sadly, not currently connected to the rest of Europe by train at all, but this trip alone is worth doing: you pass mountains, lakes and charming towns as you travel between these two historic cities, all for a ticket that costs about £5. On arrival in Sarajevo, the number 1 tram takes you to the city centre, where your first stop should be the quirky bar Zlatna Ribica to experience its treasure trove of vintage decor, delicious house wines and Bosnian hospitality.
Catherine Edwards

Béziers to Neussargues, France

Garabit Viaduct.
Garabit Viaduct. Photograph: JAUBERT French Collection/Alamy

My wife and I recently travelled by rail from Béziers to Neussargues. This line crosses the Garabit Viaduct, which was designed by Gustave Eiffel (of Tower fame) and used as a location for the 1976 disaster movie The Cassandra Crossing. Spoiler alert: the bridge is still standing – Monsieur Eiffel was a better structural engineer than the film would have us believe! The cost of this five-hour journey through some magnificent mountain scenery on a line that passes under the Millau viaduct, the highest road bridge in Europe, and clearly visible from the line, is a mere €15. We couldn’t have walked it for less.
Chris Crew

Night trains and a Brompton, to Armenia

A Dogu Express train.
A Dogu Express train. Photograph: Husamex/Alamy

I could have flown to Tbilisi and Armenia, but, instead, I loaded my Kindle on to my Brompton bicycle, and departed on night trains, roughly along the route of the Orient Express. Except that I headed first to Vienna, and tarried in Cluj, where Count Miklós Bánffy set his elegant Transylvanian Trilogy (the castle remains). I loved the night train to Bucharest, although I couldn’t make a sleeper work between Romania and Istanbul, my only flight. Biking in Ankara is madness. I really enjoyed my 24 hours on the Doğu Express to Erzurum and Kars (reading Rose Macaulay in Anatolia), and the train across Georgia to Tbilisi, where I caught a sleeper to Yerevan, which was laid out for Bromptons. Cost: £650. (There are plans for a rail route into Georgia from Kars; currently buses provide a cross-border service.)
Matthew Stevenson

Nuoro to Macomer, Sardinia

Megalithic nuraghe in Sardinia.
Megalithic nuraghe in Sardinia. Photograph: funkyfood London/Paul Williams/Alamy

The station at Nuoro in Sardinia is large and shiny, but the train going to Macomer consists of one old-fashioned carriage. The little train trundles its way through the dry landscape for an hour or so, passing isolated houses, scrubby bushes and gaunt sheep. Our journey was enlivened by a crowd of schoolboys and college girls, who got off at different stops with no obvious sign of any academic institution, and who were fondly waved off the train by the avuncular conductor. The train doubles back on itself as it enters Macomer, providing views of the local megalithic nuraghe, and deposits travellers at the station, from where much glossier trains speed efficiently to other parts of the island.
Barbara Forbes

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Sofia to Istanbul

Sofia-Istanbul Express.
Sofia-Istanbul Express. Photograph: Angel Petrov/Shutterstock

Once a day, the Sofia to Istanbul Express train departs Sofia at 18.40. Tickets are reserved in-person at the station only. Making temporary home in your sleeper or couchette, the journey takes roughly 10 hours, offering enough daylight to catch glimpses of lives and landscapes as the train rolls eastbound towards Halkali, a short metro ride from central Istanbul. Bring your own food and drink (wine recommended). Bedding and pillows are provided to adorn your surprisingly comfy fold-down bed. Passport checks and full border controls impede any chance of a full night’s rest, but it isn’t long before you’re back to being soothed by the sways and rhythms of the train – your Turkish adventure awaits.

Vienna to Venice

Innsbruck. Photograph: Nataliia Shcherbyna/Getty Images

I took the train from Vienna, stopping at Salzburg, Innsbruck, then to Venice. That October trip sparked my love of the Alps. The landscape rolls and changes dramatically from idyllic green hills to valleys and snow-capped peaks. You can sit in one of the great halls of Augustiner beer-makers in Salzburg, Mozart’s birthplace, and visit the Hohensalzburg fortress for breathtaking views. Innsbruck is truly the jewel of the Alps, with Habsburg heritage, folk culture and an accessible mountain for first-time climbers – if you’re lucky, you’ll catch the first snowfall of the year before boarding the train down to Venice.
Igor Rocha

Madrid to Granada, Spain

Atocha station.
Atocha station. Photograph: PNC/Getty Images

My €98 ticket got me from the airport to Madrid Atocha railway station and, on the Granada-bound train, included lunch with refreshments in the first-class coach. I found a left-luggage facility outside the station and for €10 secured three hours hands-free to grab a coffee and visit the National Museum of Anthropology. The train journey to Granada lasted three and a half hours. Spectacular views the whole length of the country. The Man in Seat 61 has inspired me since I closed my Thomas Cook Interrail handbook!
Ann Dullaghan

Winning tip: Aberystwyth to Pwllheli, Wales

A train near Barmouth.
A train near Barmouth. Photograph:

I recently completed a four-day rail (and bus) journey circumnavigating Wales. The highlight was riding the Cambrian line from Aberystwyth to Pwllheli; tickets cost about £16 for a journey of just over three hours. For this you get an ever-changing view of the coast and surrounding hills. The train often runs beside the sea, sometimes atop a cliff, other times low down next to golden sands. I didn’t get off but you can stop at the seaside resort of Barmouth, visit the castle at Criccieth or catch a steam train from Porthmadog. Moreover, it’s the only train I’ve ridden where the driver popped his head out of the cab to say good morning to the passengers!
Christine Reardon

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