The dream railway holidays to add to your 2023 bucket list

train holidays europe
The best European train holidays for 2023Bernina Express. Melinda Moore

Nothing beats a train holiday in Europe or the UK for outstanding views, an air of nostalgia and an utterly delightful (and typically more sustainable) way to travel.

BEST TRAIN HOLIDAYS IN EUROPE

A European rail escape can be as laid-back or adventurous as you like – 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, impressive viaducts, and past shimmering blue lakes.

What makes European train holidays so special is that getting there is part of the experience. Consider it a trip about the journey, not just the destination. Take the train to Italy to stay by the lakes, or enjoy the best of Switzerland's Bernese Oberland region after you've taken a leisurely journey there by train. You can even plan an exciting adventure to city-hop around Spain and Morocco using the train network.

You don't need to travel overseas to enjoy a wonderful railway holiday, if you prefer to stay close to home. Heritage railways criss-cross the Yorkshire Dales, and the Jacobite, a glorious steam train, chugs through Scottish scenery. Plus there are plenty of railway lines in Wales and the Isle of Man to enjoy on holidays that make the most of the beautiful scenery.

Here are the European train holidays on our radar for 2023...

Admire the French Alps from the Mont Blanc Express

Mountain railways don’t come much more spectacular than this – gliding through the iconic Alps and past Western Europe’s highest peak, which gives the route its name.

The Mont Blanc Express has connected the Swiss town of Martigny, in a lush valley, with France’s famous ski resort Chamonix for over 100 years, whisking passengers through the magical Trient Valley, past rock formations, thick pine forests, vast gorges and alpine villages in around 90 minutes.

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Its comfy carriages are the perfect way to take in the region’s awe-inspiring views, with huge windows to peer out of as you travel from Gervais-Les-Bains to beautiful Chamonix.

Ride the Mont Blanc Express on a six-day Prima Holiday, staying in the mountain resort of La Clusaz as a base to explore Geneva, Lake Annecy, and Aix-les-Bains. Departs May, June, September and October 2023.

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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.

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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. Departs May, June, October, and December 2023.

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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.

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Explore the Scottish Highlands by steamShutterstock

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).

Being in the Scottish Highlands affords you ample opportunity to explore the region, with picturesque Oban, canal-side Corpach, the legendary Loch Ness and quaint Fort Augustus worth ticking off your list.

Prima has an exclusive eight-day holiday with TV's Carol Kirkwood, where you'll be joined by the weather presenter on a discovery of the Scottish Highlands and nearby islands, as well as a journey on the Jacobite in May 2023.

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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.

Train holidays - Glacier Express
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You can board 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 holiday in Switzerland, with departures in October 2023.

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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’s 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.

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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 admire 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 October 2023.

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Roll through Norfolk's 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.

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

Prima has a five-day Norfolk with three railway journeys and a tour of Sandringham with Lucy Worsley in May, July, and October 2023.

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Ride the pretty trains of the Pyrenees

Nestled between the southwest of France and Catalonia in northern Spain, the spectacular Pyrenees are home to some of Europe's most amazing mountain scenery.

They’re also home to one of the world’s great railway journeys - the Little Yellow Train of the Pyrenees - which is a historic metre-gauge electric railway.

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The line takes you through dramatic mountain scenery and down into the Pyrenean Valley, travelling from an altitude of 427 metres at its lower terminus to 1,592 metres above sea level at Bolquère Eyne, France’s highest railway station.

Along its path, the line travels across bridges and through short tunnels, winding up between forests, chasms and gushing streams. The best part? You can sit in open-air carriages for the best seat in the house to watch the scenery roll past.

Journey on the Little Yellow Train on a rail holiday with Prima, with rides on the Roses Express and the Núria Valley Rack Railway included, and stay in charming Roses on the Costa Brava. Departures in May, June and September 2023.

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City hop around Spain and Morocco by train

Catch the Eurostar to Paris, then travel on to Marrakech via Barcelona, Madrid, Algeciras, Tangier, and Casablanca on an unforgettable rail journey where the travel is part of a colourful, cultural, and varied experience.

There's plenty of time to stretch your legs between train journeys, taking walking tours around Barcelona, Casablanca, and Marrakech. You'll stay in four-star comfort throughout the trip - so no sleeper trains - then fly home to London when your holiday ends in Marrakech.

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You have plenty of time to ease into this trip on the train journey from London to Spain before there's time to get to know Barcelona and stay in a lovely four-star hotel in the city. One of the highlights of this trip is the train journey between Barcelona and Madrid, where you can admire the rolling Spanish countryside on an effortless journey between the two cities.

Explore Spain and Morocco by train on a ten-day railway adventure like no other. Departs May, September, and October 2023.

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Ride Yorkshire's beautiful heritage railways

Closer to home, ride the heritage railways of Yorkshire, boarding classic steam trains to explore miles of splendid scenery, then disembarking for bracing walks across the area's magnificent moors.

You can sit back in Edwardian and Victorian carriages as a vintage steam locomotive pulls you through the scenery between Skipton and Ilkley on the award-winning Embsay and Bolton Abbey Railway and ride the Keighly and Worth Valley Railway to stop at the little station at Damens, used as the charming Oakworth station in The Railway Children.

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Our five-day holiday in Yorkshire includes three wonderful railway journeys from a lovely base at the Rendezvous Hotel in Skipton, which serves as the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales.

Get to know the best bits of Yorkshire on a five-day adventure with Prima on a railway and walking holiday. Departs April, August, and October 2023.

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Explore Corsica on its network of scenic trains

We think the French island of Corsica has it all. Coastal towns overlook beautiful blue bays, and inland forests and mountains hide hilltop villages, plus plenty of delicious food. Corsica also has a railway network that means visitors can effortlessly explore the scenery, hopping from place to place on leisurely train journeys, allowing you to get to know the ancient capital of Corte one day and the crescent-shaped bay of Calvi the next.

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Our no-fly, ten-day trip to Corsica blends plenty of explorations across Corsica with time to relax in three-star hotels with breakfast and dinner included.

Catch the Eurostar to Paris, then by TGV to Nice before hopping on a ferry to spend a week in Corsica. Various departures between May and September 2023.

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Stop at the highest railway station in Europe

Switzerland's snowy peaks and glittering turquoise lakes are a cinematic wonderland that's best viewed from a high vantage point. And thanks to the country's excellent trains (that run like clockwork in all weathers), there are plenty of opportunities to see the best of Switzerland's scenery from the comfort of a railway carriage.

One of our favourite journeys takes passengers to the world-famous Jungfraujoch, Europe's highest train station. On the way, gaze out of the window to see the mighty Aletsch Glacier and travel directly past the north face of the Eiger mountain on a 45-minute ascent, where you can disembark and enjoy goosebumps from the sweeping panoramas at the Sphinx Observatory. It's also where you'll find an ice palace with beautiful artwork carved from ice.

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Stanley Chen Xi, landscape and architecture photographer - Getty Images

You can ride the train to Jungfraujoch as part of our eight-day holiday to Switzerland. It's an extra-special trip that takes you to the highlights of Switzerland's scenic Bernese Oberland region, using mountain railways, funiculars, and cableways to explore the phenomenal landscape and stay in a cosy hotel in the car-free Alpine town of Wengen.

Travel to the heart of the Swiss Alps by train from London on an eight-day, no-fly holiday with Prima in October 2023.

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Journey through the Alps to the beautiful Dolomites

Take advantage of Europe's railway network and explore the continent on a memorable and leisurely train journey to northern Italy on a journey that takes you via Paris and Munich, cross the scenic Austrian Tirol to Innsbruck, and then climb the Brenner Pass over the Alps.

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When you get to Italy, spend time by the region's glorious lakes, and explore the area by train, boarding one of Europe's steepest funicular railways for an unforgettable ascent to explore the Mendola mountain ridge. It's just a 12-minute journey but reaches a lofty altitude of nearly 7,800 feet, high in the Mendola mountain pass. Such heights promise the type of incredible panoramas that are usually reserved for hikers.

Travel to Italy by train and ride the little trains of the Dolomites on a nine-day holiday with Prima, with departures in May and September 2023.

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Take a storybook-style train through the Manx countryside

Step aboard the Isle of Man Steam Railway, a gleaming postbox-red locomotive, for a scenic hour-long journey through the Manx countryside. It's not the only train journey we love on this little island - the Snaefell Mountain Railway is another firm favourite. While it's just five miles long, it rises 2,000 feet above sea level to treat passengers to astounding views. On a clear day, there's the chance to see England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales from the top.

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Choose Douglas as a base for your Isle of Man adventures, using the island's capital as a jumping-off point to board the railways and take leisurely strolls around the town itself to discover its beaches and Victorian heritage.

Prima's five-day holiday to the Isle of Man includes a coach tour and railway journeys, with the chance to visit Douglas and Peel. Departs October 2023.

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