The contents of Europe by Rail

Europe by Rail: the definitive guide for independent travellers

Here's an overview of the contents of the brand new 14th edition of the guidebook Europe by Rail, which was published in June 2016.

Fifty routes exploring Europe

At the heart of Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide for Independent Travellers (to be published in June 2016) are detailed descriptions of 50 amazing European rail journeys. Some journeys are sufficiently long that you could easily build an entire holiday around them (eg. from Amsterdam to Oslo or Hamburg to Budapest). Others are more modest in scope - such as a scenic wander through the Harz Mountains of eastern Germany or a rail cruise along the French Riviera. 

Each route kicks off with our personal appraisal of the journey using a star rating system and a note of the countries through which the route passes. Every route description includes a  sketch map, showing places along the way, with superimposed grids that give the pattern of rail services along that route. Much of the timetable information in the book is derived from the monthly European Rail Timetable (ERT). Our thanks to the guys who produce that wonderful compendium; ERT table numbers are used for easy reference throughout the book.

Sometimes we commend a short-cut or an alternative route. Of course no-one dictates that you must follow our routes in their entirety. You can pick and choose, switching from one to another where they intersect, and sometimes branching out on your own to explore territory beyond our recommended routes. Here is the list of the 50 routes featured in Europe by Rail (just click on a section name to review the list of routes in that area):

  • 1. A tale of two cities
    • London – Paris
  • 2. Burgundy and the Rhône Valley
    • Paris – Dijon – Beaune – Lyon – Valence – Avignon – Marseille
  • 3. Along the French Riviera
    • Marseille – Bandol – Toulon – Cannes – Antibes – Nice
  • 4. The Seine Valley and Normandy
    • Paris – Giverny – Rouen – Lisieux – Bayeux – Cherbourg
  • 5. The heart of France
    • Paris – Nevers – Vichy – Clermont-Ferrand – Allier Gorge – Nîmes
  • 6. Through western France
    • Paris – Angers – Bordeaux – Biarritz – San Sebastián
  • 7. To the Pyrenees
    • Paris – Dordogne – Toulouse – Latour de Carol – Barcelona
  • 8. From the Alps to Catalonia
    • Geneva – Aix-les-Bains – Avignon – Perpignan – Portbou – Barcelona
  • 9. Historic Spain
    • Barcelona – València – Despeñaperros – Córdoba – Seville – Cádiz
  • 10. High-speed Spain
    • Barcelona – Madrid – Córdoba – Málaga
  • 11. Pilgrim route to Santiago
    • San Sebastián – Burgos – León – Santiago de Compostela
  • 12. The Atlantic coast of Iberia
    • Santiago de Compostela – Vigo – Porto – Lisbon
  • 13. Through Flanders to Holland
    • Lille – Bruges – Antwerp – Den Haag – Amsterdam
  • 14. From Flanders to the Rhine
    • Lille – Brussels – Liège – Aachen – Cologne
  • 15. South to Switzerland
    • Amsterdam – Maastricht – Luxembourg – Strasbourg – Lausanne
  • 16. Touring the Rhine Valley
    • Cologne – Koblenz – Heidelberg – Triberg – Zurich
  • 17. Across northern Germany
    • Cologne – Düsseldorf – Hannover – Helmstedt – Berlin
  • 18. The Harz Mountains
    • Hannover – Goslar – Wernigerode – Quedlinburg – Magdeburg
  • 19. From Prussia to the Alps
    • Berlin – Leipzig – Weimar – Würzburg – Munich – Salzburg
  • 20. Bohemian byways
    • Nuremberg – Plzen – Karlovy Vary – Prague
  • 21. Exploring the Danube
    • Nuremberg – Passau – Linz – Vienna – Bratislava
  • 22. Four capitals in a day
    • Hamburg – Berlin – Prague – Bratislava – Budapest
  • 23. Through the Carpathians
    • Budapest – Debrecen – Mukacheve – Lviv
  • 24. Historic Habsburg cities
    • Venice – Trieste – Ljubljana – Zagreb
  • 25. Through Denmark to Sweden
    • Hamburg – Lübeck – Copenhagen – Malmö – Stockholm
  • 26. Maritime cities
    • Amsterdam – Hamburg – Aarhus – Hirtshals – Oslo
  • 27. Sampling Scandinavia
    • Copenhagen – Göteborg – Oslo – Bergen
  • 28. North to the Lofoten Islands
    • Oslo – Lillehammer – Trondheim – Bodø – Svolvær
  • 29. Night train to Narvik
    • Stockholm – Boden – Narvik – Svolvær
  • 30. Around the Gulf of Bothnia
    • Boden – Luleå – Oulu – Tampere – Turku – Helsinki
  • 31. Essential Finland
    • Helsinki – Kuopio – Kemi – Rovaniemi
  • 32. The Semmering railway
    • Vienna – Klagenfurt – Villach – Venice
  • 33. The Arlberg route
    • Zurich – Feldkirch – Innsbruck – Salzburg – Vienna
  • 34. Across the Bernina Pass
    • Zurich – Zernez – St Moritz – Tirano – Milan
  • 35. Following the Glacier Express
    • St Moritz – Andermatt – Brig – Zermatt
  • 36. Swiss lakes and mountains
    • Zurich – Lucerne – Interlaken – Montreux – Lausanne – Geneva
  • 37. Across the Alps: Bavaria to northern Italy
    • Munich – Mittenwald – Innsbruck – Bolzano – Verona
  • 38. Through Liguria to Tuscany
    • Nice – Monaco – Sanremo – Genoa – Cinque Terre – Pisa
  • 39. Exploring central Italy
    • Pisa – Lucca – Florence – Perugia – Assisi – Rome
  • 40. Tuscany and Umbria
    • Verona – Bologna – Florence – Siena – Orvieto – Rome
  • 41. North Italian cities
    • Genoa – Milan – Cremona – Mantua – Verona – Venice
  • 42. South to Sicily
    • Rome – Naples – Messina – Taormina – Siracusa
  • 43. The long haul south
    • Budapest – Subotica – Belgrade – Skopje – Thessaloniki
  • 44. From the Danube to Dalmatia
    • Budapest – Lake Balaton – Zagreb – Split – Dubrovnik
  • 45. Slow train to Bosnia
    • Zagreb – Banja Luka – Doboj – Sarajevo
  • 46. Through Poland to Ukraine
    • Berlin – Poznan – Warsaw – Kraków – Lviv
  • 47. Towards the Tatra Mountains
    • Dresden – Görlitz – Wroclaw – Kraków – Zakopane
  • 48. Eastbound to Russia
    • Warsaw – Brest – Minsk – Vitebsk – St Petersburg
  • 49. A Baltic journey
    • Helsinki – Tallinn – Tartu – Riga
  • 50. The ultimate challenge
    • Belgrade – Timisoara – Cluj-Napoca – Suceava – Lviv

 

The “Sidetracks”

The Sidetracks features, 26 in all, are often bold leaps — and might particularly encourage you to strike out independently. Some Sidetracks will lead to offshore islands (such as Sardinia or Corsica), others will take you well beyond the regular tourist trails, even to countries like Albania or Moldova which often get completely overlooked in many travel guides to Europe. The Sidetracks also recall moments from railway history and especially memorable short trips beyond the core 50 routes covered in the book. Here are three examples from the book (click on a title to see a short excerpt from the text):

Belgium’s Coastal Tramway (Kusttram) is the world’s longest tram route. And it confers on Belgium the distinction of being the only country on the planet where the entire coastline can be surveyed in a single tram ride. From the French border near Plopsaland to the dune landscapes of Knokke on the Dutch border it is about 70 kilometres, and the Coastal Tramway takes in the entire coast, with about 70 tram stops along the way...

Travellers who progress up the Rhine Valley from Cologne face a big decision at Koblenz. Most continue up the Rhine and indeed that is just what Route 16 does. But you might forsake the Rhine in favour of the Moselle, following the lesser river upstream towards Trier and Luxembourg (where you can join Route 15 in this book). Mary Shelley commended a Moselle excursion as a device to enhance still more “the prouder and more romantic glories of the Rhine.” The Moselle landscape, Shelley suggested, possesses “an inferior beauty”.

We disagree. The Moselle’s lazy sinuous course, occasionally rocky and wild, sometimes densely hung with forests and often gently clad with vines, makes for one of the most seductively beautiful waterways in Europe...

Whether you approach Narvik on the direct overnight train from Stockholm or on the bus that runs up the Norwegian coast from Bodø and Fauske, you are sure to have that distinct feeling of having reached somewhere very far from civilisation. Narvik is the end of the line, and the spectacular Ofoten railway that runs over the mountains from Sweden (part of Route 29) is the northernmost rail journey included among the 50 routes in this book.

End of the line does not mean end of the road, and true adventurers can continue beyond Narvik to explore Norway’s two northernmost fylker (or counties): Troms (or Romsa in the Sámi language) and Finnmark (Finnmárku in Sámi)...

 

The Country Gazetteer

There is some information that is best presented on a country-by-country basis. In the gazetteer we give key data such as language, time zone and currency. For countries that feature in our 50 rail routes, we give additional travel information, which includes the countries' main rail operators, the validity of InterRail and Eurail passes and the availability of country- or regional passes. An overview of accommodation options and culinary hightlights rounds of each country description.

City Links

The comprehensive tables of city links in Europe by Rail show, for major cities on Europe’s rail network, the key facts about train travel between principal city pairs. City pairs may be linked by a direct overnight train service and/or by a daytime service. For all services we give a typical travel time (in hours and minutes). This allows you to quickly detect additional travel options while planning your trip through Europe by rail.

Connections

Previous editions of Europe by Rail had limited information on connecting options from principal waystations along a route. But in the 14th edition, we have greatly extended the coverage as well as the number of connections. This allows you to branch off a route or connect mid-way to another journey described in Europe by Rail. Connections are now a really powerful way of devising your own routes.