5 train getaways for 2020

Jess Benjamin
·3-min read
The best places to travel by train this year
The best places to travel by train this year

With European flights often costing less than a one-way ticket to Manchester Piccadilly, cutting down on your air miles can seem like a thankless task. Sure it is better for the environment, but your wallet will suffer.

But with mounting concerns over the carbon footprint of commercial flights, people are increasingly swearing off short-haul flights – or airplanes altogether.

After Greta Thunberg famously decided to sail to the US rather than fly, many decided to follow suit, with the hashtag #stayontheground charting Instagram users’ eco-friendly travel methods. Whilst Thunberg’s voyage from Plymouth to New York took 15 days, there are much shorter alternatives for your 2020 summer holiday – and all are just a train ticket away.

Ghent, Belgium – 2 hours, 52 minutes

Canal plus: the waterways of Ghent (Getty Images/Westend61)
Canal plus: the waterways of Ghent (Getty Images/Westend61)

Looking for a beer-filled, cobble-lined getaway? Head to Ghent. A university town nestled between Bruges and Brussels, Ghent is just under 3 hours away from London via Eurostar. Board a connecting train at Brussels, or stop off there for a day or two for a true tour of Belgium. If you’re heading there in summer and want a low-carbon beach holiday, pay a visit to the nearby beach at the beautiful Ostend. Who said Belgium was just chocolate?

Marseille, Southern France – 6 hours, 34 minutes

View over Marseille
View over Marseille

It’s the longest journey on this list – but the Mediterranean coast that will greet you on arrival is well worth the wait. Hop aboard a train from London to Paris, then switch to a 3.5 hour train down to the Côte d’Azur.

Marseille is a perfect clash of charming antiquity and vibrant modernity, with new galleries, hotels and restaurants popping up constantly. Spend your days lounging by the sea and snacking on Bouillabaisse, and head inside their famous theatres and opera houses once you’ve drained your bottle of factor 50.

Utrecht, the Netherlands – 4 hours, 47 minutes

Utrecht waterways
Utrecht waterways

Eurostar has recently launched their non-stop service to Amsterdam – but we advise heading a little further afield to beat the tourist crowds. Whilst summertime canal walks are hard to resist, Utrecht is the ideal November destination for music lovers, when it hosts its annual ‘musical boundary-crossing’ Le Guess Who? festival. Go for the music, stay for the abundant offering of beer, food and good vibes.

Deauville, Northern France – 5 hours, 57 minutes

The famous casino in Deauville
The famous casino in Deauville

Right on the other side of France is Deauville, a picture-perfect seaside town in Normandy. Whilst the sea might be a little icier than Marseille’s, it’s nicknamed the ‘queen of Norman beaches’ for a reason.

As the closest seaside resort to Paris, Deauville has attracted ‘high society’ since the 1800s, and still boasts a racecourse, casinos, villas and plenty of five star establishments. If you’re on a budget, no fear – these days, Deauville caters to all.

Cologne, Germany – 4 hours, 17 minutes

The famous skyline of Cologne
The famous skyline of Cologne

A huge cathedral! Amazing Christmas markets! Loads of sausages! Three very exciting reasons to visit Cologne, one of the easiest to reach German destinations. Take advantage of their array of vintage shops and pick up a new (or old) treasure, or while away the hours in the art nouveau Neptunbad bath, replete with saunas, pools and relaxation areas. Follow up with plenty of beers and currywursts, obviously.

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Why you should visit Marseille