The Easter holidays are rapidly approaching and if you’re looking to book a break, it could be the perfect time for a train adventure.
Rail routes can be surprisingly fast – just 3.5 hours from London to Amsterdam – and even the long ones have luxurious sleeper routes to recommend them.
Travellers are increasingly sharing the joys of slow travel. Getting from A to B is a pleasure when you’re immersed in the varied landscapes of Europe. And more routes than ever are opening up around Europe which means you can make the journey with ease.
So from cultural hubs in the north to sunshine-soaked destinations in the south, we’ve picked seven fantastic cities in Europe that you don’t have to fly to.
For mountain scenery: Bern
Switzerland’s postcard-perfect capital is located on the banks of the crystal clear River Aare and surrounded by the towering beauty of the snow-capped Alps.
Take advantage of the spring weather to embark on an e-bike tour along route Radwanderroute 888 – Grünes Band Bern or stroll through the Rosengarten.
It’s also home to 6 kilometres of sheltered sandstone shopping arcades packed with independent cellar bars, cafés and craft shops. For the best views over the medieval Altstadt (Old Town), climb the 344 steps up to the top of Bern Cathedral, the country’s highest church tower at 101 metres.
Direct trains run to Bern from Paris and Frankfurt in 4.5 hours. From Brussels and London, the journey takes 7.5 hours with one change in the French capital.
For foodie delights: Florence
It’s impossible to pick just one gourmet hotspot in Europe, but Italy’s enchanting city of Florence is a particularly mouth-watering choice.
Emphasising local, sustainable and seasonal food, Tuscan treats such as schiacciata flatbread and flavourful Florentine steak are often on the menu. Tuck into tagliatelle made with locally sourced truffle and porcini mushrooms, or go for wild boar pappardelle pasta, followed by arguably the best gelato in the entire country.
Temperatures start rising in March but are still mild in spring – the perfect weather for sightseeing.
Night trains reach Florence in 10 hours from Munich, making the city an ideal destination for sleeper train holidays. From Geneva, the journey is under 6.5 hours.
For culture vultures: Amsterdam
Thanks to famous painters like Van Gogh and Rembrandt, Amsterdam is a city of iconic art.
Home to the Dutch Masters’ works in the Rijksmuseum and the equally engaging modern pieces at the Stedelijk, it’s easy to see why the Netherlands’ capital is considered one of Europe’s cultural hubs. Explore further and you’ll discover plenty more, from outdoor sculptures to tiny independent galleries.
Amsterdam and the surrounding countryside bursts into life during spring. The canals are lined with bright green trees, the city’s parks are arguably at their best and tulips – one of the Netherlands’s most famous exports – begin to bloom.
To see these iconic flowers head to Keukenhof Gardens, just over an hour southwest of Amsterdam, between March and May.
You can catch a direct train from Frankfurt to Amsterdam in four hours, from London in just over 3.5 hours and from Paris in 3.
For sun-soaked sightseeing: Seville
Although a little out of the way, southern Spain’s Seville is a vibrant destination that generously rewards visitors willing to travel those extra miles.
It is one of Spain’s hottest cities meaning temperatures regularly reach 40°C in summer making it almost impossible to explore. Seville is much milder in Spring with lower temperatures.
This is a city steeped in history, with architectural highlights ranging from the world’s largest Gothic cathedral to the exquisite Royal Alcázar palace. A sultry, sun-drenched setting of winding lanes, heavenly tapas and Flamenco dancing, it will most definitely leave its mark on you.
Seville is 2.5 hours by direct train from Madrid. A trip from Paris or Lisbon takes 12 to 13 hours.
For intriguing architecture: Cologne
Germany’s Cologne is a fascinating blend of ancient Roman walls and medieval churches.
The twin spires of its Kölner Dom cathedral are an iconic part of the skyline, and the view over the city’s eye-catching sprawl from the South Tower is well worth the 533-step climb. This structure also houses the world’s largest free-swinging bell, weighing in at 24 tonnes.
Though not as warm as some other destinations on the list, the weather starts to improve in Cologne in Spring. But be prepared for plenty of rain and even thunderstorms so bring your wet-weather clothing.
You can travel to Cologne from London in 4.5 hours, changing in Brussels. From Paris, the direct journey is 3 hours, making it an ideal option for your train holidays in Europe.
For lush vineyards: Bordeaux
Arguably the wine capital of France, Bordeaux delights visitors with its neat and pretty vineyards.
Here you can tour some of the hundreds of aristocratic wine estates, or châteaux, to learn more about the wine-making process and sample the end product.
In the city itself, the ultra-modern Cite du Vin museum is an impressive venue dedicated to bringing wine and its heritage to a younger generation through immersive exhibitions.
If you are planning to visit in April, it might be worth timing your trip to coincide with one of the many wine festivals and vineyard openings that happen during the month.
Bordeaux is 2 hours by train from Paris. You can get there from London or Amsterdam in around 5.5 hours with one change or in 4.5 hours from Brussels.
For imperial grandeur: Vienna, Austria
Austria’s capital is renowned as the world’s City of Music thanks to a heritage that includes Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and Strauss.
Visit the world-famous Musikverein, where the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra plays or explore the interactive exhibits at the innovative Haus der Musik museum. Alternatively, discover the imperial legacy left by the Habsburgs at the Hofburg Palace, which dates back to the 13th century and is one of the world’s largest palace complexes.
And if you are visiting in spring, you’ll see the best of Vienna’s floral displays. Gardens and parks across the city are filled with magnolia and cherry blossoms as well as roses and tulips.
You can reach Vienna from Paris in 10 hours with one change, or from Brussels in 11. A direct journey from Frankfurt takes just 6.5 hours.