The 15 best train rides to take this autumn
Hugo van Vondelen
Senior Content Writer
26 September 2023
The beauty of autumn in Europe lies in the details. The sight of golden leaves from the seat of a train, the gentle chill in the air as you wander the stone passages of a medieval city, the warmth of a coffee mug in your hands as you sit outdoors at a cafe, watching the world go by.
This autumn, we asked Eurail Product Specialist and train travel expert Hugo van Vondelen to suggest his 15 favorite routes to take as the year winds to an end. Explore these routes (and beyond) for yourself with a Eurail Global Pass.
Cluj-Napoca to Maramureș
Autumnal beauty is everywhere you look in Maramureș, a Northern Romanian region beloved for its unique wooden churches. On a train ride through the countryside, you'll be treated to the sight of rolling green hills turning a preternatural shade of gold as summer fades.
To reach Maramureș, travellers can take a train from Cluj-Napoca, a city in Transylvania, to Baia Mare, a city in the Maramureș region. In addition to admiring the churches, famed for their soaring spires, keep an eye out for carved wooden gates, a sign of Maramureș’s rich history of craftsmanship.
Care to venture deeper into the region? Take a ride on the Mocanita, a narrow gauge steam train that departs from Vișeu de Sus on a scenic journey into the Carpathian forest.
Note: The Mocanita steam train is not included in the Pass.
The Low Tatras mountains
Whether you're craving a day of hiking in the forest or wandering through small villages, the Low Tatras mountains in Slovakia offer a dream come true for autumn travelers.
Begin in Banská Bystrica, a picturesque city in central Slovakia. After exploring the city’s castle and old town, take the train north to Vrútky or east until Margecany to continue your mountain adventure.
Along the way to Margecany is Telgárt Penzion, a train station popular among hikers looking for cozy accomodations. To reach the station, the railway line crosses several viaducts and tunnels, making a dramatic loop across the landscape.
Prešov to Bardejov
Bardejov, one of Slovakia's oldest and most beautiful towns, offers travelers a captivating walk through history. The Bardejov Town Conservation Reserve is home to a large market square dating to the 13th to 14th centuries, a Renaissance town hall, a synagogue from the 1700s, and beyond.
Travelers can reach Bardejov by train from Prešov, the third largest city in Slovakia, situated near the High Tatras mountains. While in town, take time to stroll by the Co-Cathedral of St. Nicholas, Neptune Fountain and Regional Museum – housed in the impressive Rákoczi's Palace in the town center.
Paris to Barcelona, via the Pyrenees
Traveling from Paris to Barcelona this autumn? A low-key alternative to the ultra-popular TGV route involves a night train, a charming town, and an unforgettable ride through the Pyrenees.
Beginning in Paris, take a night train south to Latour-de-Carol. As you wake up, you’ll see the Pyrenees passing by before you arrive in Latour-de-Carol, a small French village on the border with Spain.
Instead of switching trains and immediately continuing south to Barcelona, spend a day riding the Yellow Train, named for its iconic canary hue. The 60-kilometer journey between Latour-de-Carol and Villefranche-de-Conflent takes travelers through nineteen tunnels, connecting 22 stations in the Catalan Pyrenees.
Lake Bled through the Soča Valley
Dense forests, rugged mountains, glacial lakes and a stunning river valley – you’ll experience all of this and more on a train journey across western Slovenia.
From the town of Jesenice near the Austrian border, travel to Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj, each an ideal starting point for hikes in the Triglav National Park area. The largest protected area in Slovenia, Triglav National Park encompasses a wide swath of the Julian Alps.
From Lake Bohinj, venture into the Soča Valley, following a vividly green river past waterfalls, gorges, and canyons. Finish your journey at Nova Gorica, a town near the Italian border known for its extensive outdoor adventure opportunities, including paragliding, cycling, climbing, and beyond.
Munich to Leipzig and Jena
Traveling to Germany this autumn? We recommend adding Leipzig and Jena, two cities located between Munich and Berlin, to your itinerary.
Begin exploring Leipzig’s creative scene with a visit to the Spinnerei Art Centre, a former cotton spinning mill that is now home to 100 artists' studios. The city's “Music Trail” offers a unique journey across the city, taking travelers to sites such as the Leipzig Opera and St. Thomas Church, the resting place of Johann Sebastian Bach.
While in Jena, dive into the university city's scientific heritage with a visit to the Zeiss Planetarium. Travelers can also rent a bike and explore part of the Saale Cycle Route, a path that winds more than 400 kilometers through Bavaria, Thuringia, and Saxony-Anhalt.
Timișoara to the Danube gorges
Ready to experience some jaw-dropping views? Simply hop on a train bound for the Djerdap Gorge and its awe-inspiring surrounding areas. The dramatic landscape, which sits near the border of Serbia and Romania, is part of the UNESCO-recognised Djerdap Geopark, a paradise for outdoor adventurers.
Start your adventure in Timișoara, a city in western Romania known for its colorful squares and blend of art-nouveau, neoclassical, and baroque architecture. Next, travel south to Drobeta-Turnu Severin or Orșova, two cities on the Danube. From this area, travelers can embark on a river excursion or a long hike through vast natural expanses.
Copenhagen to Gilleleje
Experience autumn in Scandinavia by using Denmark’s Lokaltog train lines, recently included as part of the Interrail Pass network. From Copenhagen, travel north to Hillerød, a holiday hotspot for Danish royals for over four centuries. Travelers will enjoy admiring the changing leaves in Gribskov, one of the largest forests in Denmark, and marveling at Frederiksborg Castle, the largest Renaissance castle in the Nordics.
Swap architectural beauty for coastal splendor by traveling further north to the fishing town of Gilleleje. After exploring Gilleleje's harbor, continue your waterside adventure by taking a ferry from Hundested Havn to Rørvig, a quiet village where travelers can sample fresh seafood and walk the coastline.
Note: The ferry from Hundested Havn to Rørvig is not included as part of the Eurail Pass.
Bilbao to Galicia
The coastal views continue on a rail journey taking Spains’ FEVE trains along the Bay of Biscay. Beginning in Bilbao, first, take in the art and architectural wonder of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and further explore Basque Country on a visit to the Urdaibai Bird Center, located just outside Guernica. Each autumn, millions of birds stop in Basque wetlands on their migratory journeys.
From Bilbao, travel west by train across the regions of Cantabria and Asturias, known for their lush mountains and coastline. Finish your journey in Galicia, where the famed Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route ends at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Galicia, a region rich in beaches, woodlands, and hiking paths, is sure to delight any outdoor adventurer.
Riga to Valka-Valga
Halloween is fast approaching. One way to get into the holiday spirit while traveling? Visit Riga and stroll through the city's picturesque old town in search of the city's famous “Cat House.” Word has it that the feline-forward building was constructed by an angry trader who was denied entry to the Great Guild and added the wrought-copper cats to his building — tails facing the Great Guild building — to demonstrate his frustration.
The autumn views continue on a train ride from Riga northeast to Sigulda, home to a number of castles and a convenient entry point to Gauja National Park, the largest national park in Latvia. After hiking amid the golden leaves, take time to explore Cēsis, another town adjacent to the park, known for its castle complex. End your train journey in Valga-Valka, a “twin town” situated at the border of Latvia and Estonia.
Clermont Ferrand to Nîmes
Slow down and enjoy the charms of southern France on a classic train route through the heart of the country. Overlooked by many travellers in favour of high-speed trains, the local rail line from Clermont Ferrand to Nîmes takes travellers into the stunning Cevennes mountain range.
Begin in Clermont Ferrand, an old university town. After sightseeing across the city – which happens to host the headquarters of Michelin – travellers can explore the range of volcanoes located to the west of Clermont Ferrand. From Clermont Ferrand, travel south to Nîmes, stopping in any small town in the Cevennes that appeals to you along the way; history fans will especially enjoy wandering the streets of Génolhac, a medieval village with roots that date back to the 11th century.
Sofia to Vidin
Nature lovers will find autumn leaves and geologic wonders in Vidin and Montana, two regions in northwest Bulgaria.
From Sofia, take a train through the Iskar Gorge, passing by woodlands and rocky crags above a rushing river. A visit to the Belogradchik Rocks, nearby the Oreshets train station, is a must – the otherworldly, ancient rock formations, some of which reach dozens of metres into the sky, have entranced visitors and locals since time immemorial.
Magura Cave, which began to form 15 million years ago, is another natural highlight in the area. Visitors to the 2,500-metre-long cave have the opportunity to marvel at a rich collection of stalactites, stalagmites and other geologic phenomena. After your cave excursion, rest up on a visit to Vidin, a quiet city on the Danube.
Regensburg to Cheb
Travelers often pass through picturesque Cheb on their way in and out of the Czech Republic. But this autumn, we recommend traveling by regional rail and stopping for a few days to enjoy the West Bohemian city's history and beauty.
Begin in Regensburg, a Bavarian city located on the Danube River, and stroll the narrow lanes of its old town, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Then, take the train north via Marktredwitz, passing through forested hills on your way to Cheb.
Once in town, explore Cheb’s iconic burgher houses and castle, and afterward, kick back and relax for a few hours on the banks of the Ohře River under Cheb Castle. From Cheb, take a scenic train northeast to Ústí nad Labem, or spend time hiking in the hills and forests that line the Czech Republic’s border with Germany to the north.
Rhodope Narrow Gauge railway
The Rhodope Narrow Gauge Railway’s Septemvri-Dobrinishte line is a hiker’s dream come true. The rail line links some of Bulgaria’s most impressive mountain ranges, allowing outdoor adventurers to get out and explore nature at stops along the journey.
Start your journey in Sofia and travel two hours by train southeast to the town of Septemvri. Once you begin the awe-inspiring ride to Dobrinishte, you’ll have the opportunity to stop and enjoy highlights along the way, such as the Tsepina fortress and Velingrad, a beloved spa destination.
Côte d’Azur through the Maritime Alps
Are you equally inspired by the mountains and the coastline? On this train ride from the Côte d’Azur into the Maritime Alps, you’ll experience the best of both land and sea.
Beginning in Nice, travel north on the Train des Merveilles into the mountains. As you approach Italy, soak in the dramatic scenery with a stop or two along the train line. Saorge, known for its baroque monastery and vaulted passageways, and La Brigue, home to the Notre-Dame des Fontaines (called “The Sistine Chapel of the Alpes Maritimes”) are each well worth a visit.
End your journey in Cuneo, a small Italian city in the shadow of the Alps. Spend a few hours strolling Cuneo's historic center and relax at one of the cafes off the Piazza Galimberti, in the heart of the city.
Sukriti Kapoor, Content Writer, contributed to this story.
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