Snow patrol: 10 great winter train journeys in Europe

Snow patrol: 10 great winter train journeys in Europe

From a steam railway in Yorkshire to lodges on wheels in the Alps, sit again and benefit from the present exterior the train window

by Robin McKie

1.Tunnel by the Alps: Semmering railway

Europe’s first standard-gauge mountain rail line, the Semmering – which connects Vienna with southwestern Austria – turned the primary transport path to be designated a Unesco heritage web site. Completed in 1854, the road crosses 16 viaducts and passes by 15 tunnels, and offers a panoramic imaginative and prescient of the Austrian Alps because it clings to the icy mountainside and sweeps above the snowy valley flooring hundreds of ft beneath. It is a world-class expertise that prices round £38, for a return ticket from Vienna to Semmering, and might additional be loved with a two-course meal with wine and occasional for an additional £20.

2.Steam into 2020: North Yorkshire Moors rail

Tornado Steam engine at North York Moors Heritage Railway March 2018. LNER Peppercorn Class A1 60163 TornadoMFXH3W Tornado Steam engine at North York Moors Heritage Railway March 2018. LNER Peppercorn Class A1 60163 Tornado

Head of steam: the Tornado engine able to roll. Photograph: Mike Kipling/Alamy

One of Britain’s most interesting preserved railways, the North Yorkshire Moors line runs from Pickering to Grosmont over the North Yorkshire dales to hitch Network Rail’s line to Whitby. This season, the railway is working New Year specials on 29 December and 1 January. Starting at Pickering, in any other case often called Gateway to the Moors, the steam trains trundle previous snow-covered hills and valleys earlier than dropping you at Whitby for 2 hours to benefit from the seaside. Visit Whitby Abbey and graveyard, which characteristic in the novel Dracula (Bram Stoker was a customer). Then, because the winter gloom gathers, you head again to cosy Pickering.
 Return tickets from £31

3.Caledonia on ice: West Highland line

Break for the border: the Caledonian sleeper travels across Rannoch Moor.

Break for the border: the Caledonian sleeper travels throughout Rannoch Moor. Photograph: Phil Wills/Alamy

Britain’s most lovely rail line, from Glasgow to Fort William and on to Mallaig, isn’t just a summer season deal with. In winter, the road heads by a gloriously austere, icy white panorama and crosses snow-covered Rannoch Moor. The line’s rolling inventory is previous, drafty and presents little greater than crisps and tea in phrases of catering. By distinction the Caledonian Sleeper has launched double beds and showers. Although beset by introductory issues, the sleepers at the moment are working easily. Get on at Euston, have a whisky and get up 12 hours later for breakfast as you sweep by the Highlands.
 Sleepers from £

4.Three-in-one: scenic Switzerland

Famous sightseeing train running over viaduct in Switzerland, the Glacier Express in winterG0TX2B Famous sightseeing train running over viaduct in Switzerland, the Glacier Express in winter

Ahead of the curve: the well-known sightseeing train operating over a viaduct in Switzerland. Photograph: Alamy

Combine Switzerland’s three biggest rail journeys in one golden journey throughout the Alps from London St Pancras. The week-long voyage begins with the spectacular Jungfrau railway that takes you to its mountaintop station, the best in Europe at 11,333ft. From right here you be part of the Glacier Express that climbs up the Rhône Valley on a narrow-gauge line – previous frozen lakes and frosted peaks – in the direction of Chur. The final leg of your journey on the Swiss Big Three is accomplished on the Bernina Express that takes you to the village of Poschiavo after which again to Chur through among the most spectacular winter mountain vistas you may expertise by train.

 Tickets from £1,

5.Snooze till spring: Moscow to Nice sleeper

Race to the sun: board in Moscow and wake up in Nice.

Race to the solar: board in Moscow and get up in Nice. Photograph: Its About Light/Getty Images

Track the change from winter to spring in beneath 48 hours as you head from freezing Russia right down to the Côte d’Azur. The service was utilized by aristocrats to benefit from the Mediterranean till it was halted by the Russian Revolution – however then restored in 2010. You can select a VIP suite, twin sleeper, or four-berth vacationer room. After an evening onboard you attain the Czech border earlier than heading to Vienna after which Milan. After your second night time, you attain Nice – simply in time for breakfast on the Promenade des Anglais.
 One-way tickets in a luxurious twin couchette round £350 per individual. Trains run as soon as per

6.The polar specific: Nordland railway

Going north: the Nordland railway heads towards the Arctic Circle.

Going north: the Nordland railway heads in the direction of the Arctic Circle. Photograph: Oivind Haug/NSB 

The Nordland line runs up Norway’s west coast from Trondheim, for 450 miles, to Bodø, simply contained in the Arctic Circle. The early morning train, with reclining seats and big commentary home windows, sweeps previous fjords, paper mills, frozen waterfalls and painted wood homes in cities referred to as Grong, Dunderland, and – better of all – Hell. By late afternoon, you move an ugly-looking dome: the Polarsirkelsenteret (Arctic Circle Centre), which suggests you’ve reached the Land of the Midnight Sun. The line then plunges westward into Bodø. If you’re fortunate, you’ll even catch the Northern Lights.
 Tickets from £49.50,

7.Shopping on a Pullman: Canterbury and carols

Sit back in comfort: cut glass and white linen en route to Canterbury

Sit again in consolation: lower glass and white linen en path to Canterbury

The swish solution to do your Christmas procuring. Enjoy brunch on the outward journey from London on white linen desk tops in classic Pullman coaches. At Canterbury you’re escorted to the cathedral for a carol live performance with time later for festive procuring. The return journey includes a champagne reception and a four-course dinner. Seats out there for 17 December from £457 (

8.Narrow-gauge, thick snow: Harz line, Germany

White snow and blue skies: a historical steam train running full speed to Brocken mountain in the Harz region.

White snow and blue skies: a historic steam train operating full pace to Brocken mountain in the Harz area. Photograph: Getty Images

Winter is the right time to journey on the Harz line because it ascends Brocken mountain and joins one of many world’s most spectacular networks of narrow-gauge steam traces. The route is thick with snow and also you spend three days criss-crossing the realm and exploring the medieval market cities of Goslarm, Quedlinburg, and others.
 Seven-day journeys from London from £1,395,

9.An opulent New Year: Danube Express

First class service: a dining car on the Golden Eagle Danube Express in Budapest, Hungary.

First class service: a eating automotive on the Golden Eagle Danube Express in Budapest, Hungary. Photograph: Alamy

 Departs 28 December£7,895pp for a deluxe compartment, Bookings now open for 2021

10.Escape the snow: head to sunny Siracuse

Southern comforts: escape the snow and ice with a long train ride across Europe ending it Siracuse in Sicily.

Southern comforts: escape the snow and ice with an extended train experience throughout Europe ending it Siracuse in Sicily. Photograph: Getty Images

If winter is simply too dispiriting, the 8.31 Eurostar from London will get you to Paris in time for the TGV to Milan. After an evening there, take the high-speed train to Rome, then the sleeper to Sicily. You breakfast on the train because it heads south previous Etna on one facet and views of the Mediterranean on the opposite. From Siracuse, go to the Greek temples at Agrigento, benefit from the glories of Alcantara National Park – or loll about in the winter solar whereas Northern Europe shivers.

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