Typically, futuristic high-speed trains are the focal point of Europe’s rail revival. To truly experience the enchantment of slow and sleepy travel, however, you must travel through time.
Throughout Europe, rail enthusiasts maintain historic steam trains on the tracks, providing nostalgic rides through the past.
Europe’s languid steam train rides offer a glimpse into the past of train travel.
Bluebell Railway travels through the English countryside.
Riding the vintage steam train of Bluebell Railway is like traveling through time.
You’ll chug through 18 kilometers of beautiful Sussex countryside, accompanied by railway staff in period attire; plan your trip in May to glimpse the eponymous bluebells.
Four stations, Sheffield Park, Horsted Keynes, Kingscote, and East Grinstead, have been preserved in various historical eras, including the Victorian, 1930s, and 1950s.
Throughout the year, special events such as murder mystery excursions will occur. On specific dates, dining trains are also available, serving everything from afternoon tea to silver service dinners and genuine ale evenings.
Standard all-day tickets start at £25 (€28).
Travel in the footsteps of Harry Potter aboard Scotland’s Jacobite Steam Train
Fans of Harry Potter throng to the Jacobite Steam Train, which was used for the Hogwarts Express in the film, but its history predates the film significantly.
The railway travels a total of 135 kilometers between Fort William and Mallaig, beginning near Britain’s highest peak, Ben Nevis.
Pass lochs, quiet villages, coastline, and the 21-arched Glenfinnan viaduct as you travel through the Scottish Highlands.
The train operates between April and October for a starting price of £57 (€65) for a standard day return.
Enjoy the height of elegance aboard the Northern Belle.
The Northern Belle, dubbed “Britain’s most luxurious train,” is steeped in regal history.
The Duart, the eldest of its seven ornately decorated 1930s-style Pullman carriages, was once part of Queen Elizabeth II’s Royal Train.
It offers multiple steam-powered excursions, with carriages pulled by one of five black steam engines, including the 88-year-old Princess Elizabeth locomotive.
As you pass through North Wales, England, and Scotland, savor a glass of champagne, a leisurely brunch, or a multi-course gourmet dinner.
Manchester’s champagne afternoon tea is the least expensive train excursion, starting at £295 (€335).
Austria’s Achensee Steam Cog Railway passes through alpine meadows.
Since the late 1800s, the oldest coal-fired steam engine in Austria has transported passengers from Jenbach past alpine meadows and forests to the shores of Lake Achensee.
The 6.8-kilometer journey in the Austrian state of Tyrol includes a 440-meter ascent and takes approximately 50 minutes. When you reach the summit, you can board a steamboat from the lake to continue your voyage through the breathtaking landscape.
Adult reservations cost €27 one-way and €36 round-trip.
Observe the passing of the Alps on Switzerland’s Furka Railway.
Observe the Swiss Alps and Rhone Glacier as the Furka Cogwheel Steam Railway – or Damfbahn Furka-Bergstrecke (DFB) – traverses the landscape.
It spans nearly 18 kilometers between the picturesque villages of Realp in the canton of Uri and Oberwald in the canton of Valais, winding through untamed gorges and climbing over 2,000 meters in altitude.
Be on the lookout for special brunch and raclette excursions to enjoy a snack en route.
The preserved railroad operates between June and September, with full-route steam train tickets costing 75 CHP (€76.50).
Observe the Provence countryside aboard the Cevennes Steam Train in France.
Old open-air carriage rides between Anduze and Saint-Jean-du-Gard are a distinctive way to experience the Provence countryside.
The Cévennes Steam Train transports passengers along viaducts above the Gardon River, pausing 2 kilometers before Anduze to visit the botanical gardens of La Bambouseraie.
Annual special event trains include a wine harvest excursion in September and a pyrotechnics night train on Bastille Day.
Regular round trips cost €16.50 for adults.
Admire rainbow tulip fields on the stoom tram of the Netherlands.
The steam ‘tram’ from Hoorn’s railway museum to Medemblik will take you through the tulip-filled countryside of Amsterdam.
From Medemblik, you can take a picturesque boat ride across the IJsselmeer Lake to Enkhuizen, and then a modern railway back to Hoorn to complete the ‘historic triangle’ journey.
Heritage railway and boat rides cost €25.95, while a solo train ride costs €15.50.
Abandon London at Sunset Steam Excursion
London’s never-ending train strikes make a trip to the UK’s capital a stressful experience, but Steam Dreams offers a significantly more restful way to travel.
In addition to day excursions throughout the United Kingdom, the company operates the Sunset Steam Express in the summer. As the sun sets, embark on an evening tour from London through the picturesque Surrey Hills while savoring a three-course meal on board.
The round-trip from London Victoria takes three and a half hours and costs between £69 (€78) for standard class and £115 (€130) for Pullman-style cuisine.
Harz Railway provides access to forests and medieval villages in Germany.
The Harz Railway allows you to explore Germany’s Harz Mountains, which are dotted with enchanted villages, legendary witches’ meeting places, and forested summits.
The 138 km, 48-station line is serviced by 25 steam locomotives, the earliest of which dates back to 1897. These trains, unlike the others on this list, serve both locals and travelers.
The Brocken line is the most popular route for visitors, as it leads to the misty mountain’s highest peak.
The price of a three-day pass for the entire network is €99.