The dream railway holidays that cost less than you think

Roshina Jowaheer
·8-min read
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Photo credit: Shutterstock

From Prima

For outstanding views, an air of nostalgia and an utterly relaxing and delightful way to travel, nothing beats train holidays in Europe.

When it's safe to travel again, we'll be ready to head to explore our favourite continent for a memorable train holiday.

Covid-19: Please check the latest guidance from the government before travelling

What makes European train holidays so special is that they make the 'getting there' part of your trip an experience in its own right: consider it a trip about the journey, not the destination.

They can be as laid-back or adventurous as you like too - and not forgetting that train holidays in Europe are perfect for romantic breaks. You can sit back together and watch as the ever-changing scenery passes by, travelling through tunnels, over historic bridges and past impressive lakes.

BROWSE TRAIN HOLIDAYS IN EUROPE

While the Orient Express and the Rocky Mountaineer are known as some of the most luxurious train journeys in the world and can be out of reach for many travellers, there are train holidays in Europe where the views are as magical - and cost a fraction of the price.

Whether you're dreaming of taking one of the top train holidays Europe has to offer, such as a ride through Switzerland's glorious Alpine scenery, or great rail escapes in the UK, these once-in-a-lifetime train holidays in Europe and at home cost less than you'd expect to pay.

Here are the train holidays on our radar for when things are back to normal. And just so you know, Prima's exclusive package holidays are protected against disruption caused by Covid-19, so you can rest assured that your money is safe if you decide to book with us.

Glide from Italy to Switzerland on the Bernina Express

For Alpine scenery straight out of a postcard, look no further than a UNESCO-listed train holiday in Europe that is the Bernina Express. It takes you through some of the continent's most wonderful landscapes, departing from Tirano and travelling up to St Moritz for a fascinating train ride.

Photo credit: Shutterstock
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Highlights include rolling over the UNESCO-protected Landwasser Viaduct and the Montebello Curve, which offers a view of the Bernina massif, the Morteratsch glacier and the three lakes of Pitschen, Nair and Bianco.

The highest point on the railway journey is 2,253 metres above sea level, where you will find the Ospizio Bernina, a station that lies on the shores of the Lago di Bianco.

Prima's eight-day Bernina Express train holiday includes a stay in Italy's Lake Como, with departures until December 2021 and prices from £799.

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Ride the Jacobite through the Scottish Highlands like Harry Potter

You don't have to be a wizard to experience the magic of the Scottish Highlands like Harry and his friends. This stunning part of Britain is not only more beautiful in real life, but it's right on our doorstep and you can experience it up close on one of the best train holidays Europe has to offer travellers.

Photo credit: Shutterstock
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Taking you from Fort William to Mallaig, the Jacobite steam train has been described as the greatest railway journey in the world. Its lucky riders enjoy an 84-mile round trip which starts in the Highlands' largest town Fort William, passes close to the deepest freshwater loch in Britain Loch Morar and crosses the 21-arch Glenfinnan Viaduct (just like the Hogwarts Express).

Once you arrive in your Mallaig, you have over an hour to explore the picturesque port town before the return journey and may wish to sample the area's fish and chips, crab sandwiches or freshly landed lobster.

Prima's four-day Scottish steam adventure allows you to experience the magnificent views of the Highlands on the Jacobite, with departures in summer 2021 and prices starting from £1,195 per person.

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Take a magical ride on the Glacier Express

Few winter trips are as unforgettable as Switzerland's Glacier Express, which is like riding through a winter wonderland as you pass snowy peaks, dramatic ravines and pretty villages.

Photo credit: Shutterstock
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Looking ahead to winter 2022, you can boarding the iconic red train at Chur, enjoying panoramic views from the large windows and soaking up fantastical landscapes. After inching your way up into the Oberalp Pass, the highest point of the route at 2,033 metres, you'll then descend to the Rhône Valley and stop at Brig.

During the journey, you're served a three-course lunch and can take in the journey at a relaxed relaxing speed - after all, this is the slowest express train in the world.

Prima's once-in-a-lifetime ride on the Glacier Express is part of a five-day winter holiday in Switzerland, with departures in February 2022 and prices starting at £1,125.

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Enjoy Wales' best view from the Snowdon Mountain Railway

Lifting passengers 1,085 metres above sea level for a relaxing ride up to England and Wales’ highest peak, the Snowdon Mountain Railway is a gem of a train ride in the UK. Departing from Llanberis, the heritage steam train passes over the beautiful Afon Hwch river, where you’ll spot the Ceunant Mawr Waterfall plunging into the gorge below.

Photo credit: Snowdon Mountain Railway
Photo credit: Snowdon Mountain Railway

You'll soon get a first glimpse of Snowdon’s distant summit and as you climb higher, the views become even more breathtaking. Reaching Halfway Station, you'll see walkers down on the Llanberis Path and Moel Cynghorion rising on the far side.

The train journey also takes in the dramatic Rocky Valley and Clogwyn Station. From the summit of Mount Snowdon you can expect to drink in the views, once described as the best in Britain, which allow you to see as far as Ireland on a clear day.

You can experience the Snowdon Mountain Railway during a five-day Welsh rail adventure with Prima, departing in April 2021 and starting from £625.

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Explore the scenic beauty of Germany's mountains

If you love Europe's natural scenery, you must visit Germany where clean mountain air and fairytale castles await. One of the most splendid ways to experience Germany beyond the cities is by steam train as you sit back, relax and watch the landscapes roll by on the vintage Brocken Railway.

Photo credit: DR pics24 - Getty Images
Photo credit: DR pics24 - Getty Images

As you roll through the epic Harz Mountains, you'll experience one of the world's most thrilling vintage steam train rides. It takes an hour and 40 minutes to reach Brocken's summit at 3,743 feet and you'll love taking in the views along the way. Expect to admire snow-capped mountain scenery complete with fairytale forests, streams and medieval villages.

While in the stunning region, there'll be time to go walking in the beautiful Harz Mountains National Park and visit fascinating former East German villages, such as picturesque Quedlinburg, which is straight out of a children's story.

Prima's five-day Germany mountain adventure has departures between May and July 2021, with prices starting at £599.

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Roll through Norfolk's breathtaking countryside by steam train

Home to royal attractions, beautiful wildlife and varied natural scenes - from beaches to broads - Norfolk is a must-see destination and you won't find a better way to explore it than on one of the UK's best train holidays.

Photo credit: Shutterstock
Photo credit: Shutterstock

The Bittern Line, Poppy Line, Bure Valley Railway and Mid-Norfolk Railway offer a relaxing way to take in the county as you visit villages like Wroxham and Horning, browse the Sandringham Estate and stop for a cruise through the Norfolk Broads.

You won't want to miss a visit to 17th-century country house Felbrigg Hall, either. The Jacobean beauty is home to a walled garden, orchards and an orangery.

Prima has a five-day Norfolk rail trip to see its royal attractions, including a tour with royal expert Jennie Bond and historian Lucy Worsley, as well as a more affordable trip from £495 per person.

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Glide past attractive scenes in Italy on the Centovalli Railway

Connecting the Swiss town of Locarno, on Lake Maggiore, with the Italian city of Domodossola, in Piedmont, the Centovalli Railway takes in stunning views of the Valle Vigezzo.

Photo credit: Federica Grassi - Getty Images
Photo credit: Federica Grassi - Getty Images

Used as both a commuter route and among visitors (it's popular among walkers), its highest point is the village of Santa Maria Maggiore.

Perfect for combining with the Italian Lakes, this train holiday in Europe allows you to visit the gardens and villas of Lakes Como, Maggiore and Orta, too.

You can join an eight-day Italy train holiday with Gardeners' World presenter Adam Frost in October 2021, from £1,459 per person.

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Soak up the summer scenes of Sussex on the Bluebell Railway

The south of England is a terrific place to explore in the warmer months, when the gardens are in full bloom and you can enjoy days out to soak up the sights and scents of the season. One thing everyone should experience at least once in the wonderful Bluebell Railway, which runs from Sheffield Park to East Grinstead.

Photo credit: Bluebell Railway
Photo credit: Bluebell Railway

A steam train ride on the Bluebell, which is known as one of the best in the UK, takes you to Horsted Keynes station, which has maintained its original 1930s style and featured in Downton Abbey as Downton station. While in the region, you'll love an evening walk around the market town of Arundel, visiting Sheffield Park and looking out for seals on a Chichester Harbour boat trip.

Prima has a four-day Bluebell Railway staycation, with plenty of excursions to give you the best of the region, with departures until September 2021 and prices starting at £665.

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