7 Train Journeys to add to your bucket list: Europe Edition

While plane travel will get you from A to B in a short amount of time, it can also be crazily hectic and stressful, from the expensive trip to the airport, the long lines at security not to mention dealing with everyone else on the plane and at the airport! When I started travelling by train, I found that not only did I get to see the incredible sights along the way, but it also formed a part of my holiday rather than just being my mode of transportation.

So I decide to put together a list of train journeys that will get you from one destination to another but will also take you back in time, to hard to reach places, show you incredible scenery or even take you somewhere magical.

This is the Europe edition…

 

1. Get to Paris on the Eurostar

Dreaming of traveling through Europe, I couldn’t wait until one day I would catch the Eurostar from London to Paris for a weekend getaway! A trip on the Eurostar is my favourite way to travel between London and the continent being hassle free, mush less stressful and makes me feel super classy. It’s the perfect commute and in just two and a half hours from the heart of London you could be eating croissants in the heart of Paris or dining on mussels in Brussels.

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2. Cross continents on the Trans Siberian Railway

The Trans Siberian Railway is your alternate route to the European continent from Asia, that will take you off the beaten track and is definitely an adventure to tell the grandkids about or at least brag to your mates on Instagram. If you take on the most popular route, leaving from Beijing, you will travel along the longest railway line in the world, through Mongolia then cross from far East Russia all the way to Moscow, stopping along the way at some of the world’s most iconic sights including the Gobi Desert, the Great Wall of China and Moscow’s Red Square.

3. Go somewhere magical on the Hogwarts Express

This adventure is one is for all the aspiring wizards out there! If you never received you entrance letter to Hogwarts, like me, then you no longer have to live a completely muggle lifestyle because you can fake your way to experience the magic by taking the Jacobite Steam Train through the Scottish countryside.

Most recognisable around the world for it’s role in the Harry Potter films as the Hogwarts Express, a train ride on the Jacobite Steam Train will transport you across the West Coast of Scotland where you will take in the exquisite scenery that J.K. Rowling describes in the Harry Potter novels. As you are transported by steam engine, you will be able to take in the incredible countryside featuring highlands, valleys, lochs, glens and most importantly a crossing of the 21 arches of the Glenfinnan viaduct – the most memorable imagery of the Hogwarts train journey from the Harry Potter films.

 

4. Glacier Express

Switzerland is more than just their chocolate and the picturesque snow capped mountains perfect for skiing! They also have watches, banks and fondue…. And the Glacier Express. The Glacier Express runs from Zermatt to Davos or St Moritz and will take you through deep gorges, enticing valleys, through tunnels, over hundreds of bridges and of course through those picturesque snow capped mountains. In just seven hours, you will see the most impressive sights of the Swiss Countryside as well as getting to your next destination on the other side of the country in style.

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5. Arctic Circle Express

Lapland and the Arctic Circle sound almost mythical to exist, even after you’ve made a trip there! All throughout the year the Arctic Circle and Lapland regions of Norway and Sweden contain absolutely stunning scenery from the mountains and fjords to the extreme daylight and night time. Travelling on the Arctic Circle Express into far north Lapland will take you well past the arctic circle where you will get to experience the culture, history, and breathtaking landscapes including the UNESCO World Heritage site of Geirangerfjord!

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6. The Transylvanian Odyssey

If you want to see a different side of Europe, then the Transylvanian Odyssey will take you through the Transylvanian and Balkan regions. Boarding the Golden Eagle Danube Express in Budapest, travelling through the Hungarian countryside making your way towards the Transylvanian region, where you will need to keep your cross and onions handy as you will stop at Sighisora the rumoured birthplace of Dracula and Brasov to visit Bran Castle, also know as Dracula’s castle! The Journey then continues through the countryside and cities of Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovinia, Croatia, Slovenia before finally arriving in Venice, Italy for a final gelato!

 

7. Step back in time aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient Express

Since recently completing a huge renovation back to it’s Art Deco origins, the Venice Simplon-Orient Express will transport you back in time to the golden age of travel, the 1920’s! Your time on board the Orient Express will prove that trains are more than just a means of transportation as you sip cocktails in the bar car in black tie or relax in your private room, you will make your way through Europe’s exquisite scenery, stopping at some of the continent’s major cities in complete luxury and style.

There isn’t only one way to experience the Orient Express as it can take you on a variety of routes throughout Europe, perhaps you are interested in the classic London to Venice route via Paris or a historical adventure, taking a similar route as the original 1883 inaugural journey donned in your best sequined flapper dress that will take you from Paris to Istanbul via Budapest and Bucharest. Now I just need to save up all my pennies!

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Which of these train journeys would you like to add to your bucket list? Let me know in the comments.

 

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9 Places to visit in Europe this Summer

If Europe has been on your list for a while, then the European summer is the perfect time to blow your savings on a big trip over to make the most of the weather and the adventures.

Whether you are have always wanted to see the historical and cultural sights of the most beautiful cities in the world, or you are harbouring teenage fantasies that a local superstar will fall in love with you, Lizzie McGuire style.

Whichever is your reason for wanting to see the sights of Europe, I have put together the must see summer sights that are a little off the standard travel list to get you started for this summer.

Now that there is less than 2 month until summer, it’s time to pack your bags and book your flights! Oh and check out this list of amazing places to visit in Europe this summer.

 

Sail your way around the Croatian Islands

Forget the Greek Islands, the Croatian Islands is where it’s at!

If you are heading to Europe with a couple or group of friends, then heading to the Dalmatia Coast of Croatia to spend 7 days on a boat with your best pals might be for you! If spending your days sunbathing, swimming off the back of a boat, eating traditional food, partying and sleeping at sea sounds like pure heaven then make sure you add sailing the Croatian Islands to your itinerary.

Most tours depart from Split, but some also depart from Dubrovnik. Check out MedSailors and Sail Croatia which are two of the most popular tour companies.

Best timing: Go anytime!

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Bask in Barcelona’s history and culture

Barcelona is a must see if you are in Europe this summer, with it’s rich history, art culture (Gaudi, am I right?), exquisite food and while were at it, just give me all the sangria!

Whether you are an art culture fan or not, there is no doubt you will enjoy Gaudi’s architectural masterpieces from Parc Güell, Casa Batlló to the La Sagrada Familia, they are all exquisite and a lot of fun! If you are looking for something a little different then a trip to the Tibidabo Funfair above the city is worth checking out, for the views over Barcelona city alone. Since you are visiting Barcelona in summer, make a day trip to a coastal town near by and enjoy the sunshine, sangria and surf!

With all the amazing sights to see come crowds and lines, so you will need to put aside a good chunk of time to see everything and by booking online you will save money and time.

Now go get some tapas and sangria, after all you are in Spain!

Best timing: The best time to go is June or July 

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Explore the Cinque Terre and stop for Gelato in each town

The Cinque Terre or ‘the five lands’ region of Italy is so incredible, it’s almost out of a fairytale book and they even have the UNESCO World Heritage listing to prove it!

When visiting, the towns are only accessible by train, boat or your own two feet! Most people take the train or walk between each town, so for a different experience approach by boat!

Exploring each unique town for adorable laneways, souvenir shopping in the quaint village shops, taking a dip in the beaches, stopping for incredible Italian food or a refreshing glass of wine and of course the killer views are what the Cinque Terre is all about. As well as grabbing a gelato at each stop because you deserve it!

Getting there: Accommodation options are available in either the Cinque Terre or in La Spezia, a 20 min train ride away. The easiest way to get to the Cinque Terre is to fly into Pisa and catch a train to La Spezia, just make sure you validate your ticket. And while in Pisa make sure you stop by the Tower of Pisa for your token tourist shot!

Best timing: You can go anytime, but try and avoid school summer holiday periods as this will be the most crowded.

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Water and Wine Festival in Requena, Spain

Requena’s Water and Wine Festival is the ultimate Spanish Fiesta experience, hands down! The Water & Wine Festival takes place each August in the town of Requena, where the whole community comes together to celebrate the grape harvest…and who doesn’t need an excuse to celebrate wine!

The festivities start with a show in the local bullring which then moves onto a procession of the whole town following the ‘charangas’ or small orchestras through the town. While locals and tourists follow the charangas through the streets the local tradition is for the locals to pour water onto the crowd from their houses. When the procession comes to a completion it is then time to try the freshly harvested time and celebrate with music and more festivities, like the Spanish do, well into the early morning!

Getting there: Requena is about an hour by train from Valencia, make sure you book accommodation before you go. Alternatively, more and more tour companies are offering trips to the water and wine festival so this is an option as well in a deal with La Tomatina which is generally the following day.

Dates: Tuesday 30th August 2016

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Laugh yourself silly at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the largest arts festivals in the world, with a mix of well established, as well as up and coming performances, there is going to be something that you enjoy! During the day, you performers will take to the Royal Mile to flyer their shows for audiences, make sure you check out some of the free shows and try something new.

In between seeing shows, Edinburgh has so much to offer, you can check out the historical  walking tours that take you under the Royal Mile, explore Edinburgh Castle, climb Arthur’s Seat for incredible views of the entire city, or walk through the local cemeteries looking for names from the Harry Potter series – trust me it’s not as weird as it sounds.

Dates: 5th – 29th August 2016-04-03

Eat Portuguese Tarts in Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon is a great place to visit with friendly and welcoming locals, amazing sites, great night life and incredible food including the ‘Pasteis de Nata’ – the Portuguese Tart! While in Lisbon you will need to make a trip to Pasteis de Belem to try the best Portuguese tarts in the city, lines will be long but so worth the wait!

And if Portuguese Tarts aren’t your thing, make sure you check out the Castelo de Sao Jorge for great views above the city, a day trip to Sintra and the nightlife in the Bairro Alto district.

 

Dates: Go Anytime!

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Photo: Victoria Rhouliadeff

Get lost on the streets of Paris

Okay, so don’t actually get lost…

While Paris has some of the most amazing sights and attractions in the world, but a day roaming with nowhere in particular to be can allow you to see a lot more than rushing head down to the next place on your list.

I like to start the day off with breakfast at a café people watching, then strolling through the streets looking at shops and boutiques and picking up some treats for myself to take home. Go where you feel drawn to and what catches your eye and you will catch glimpses of the incredible landmarks that you may not have seen rushing about. My favourite region to explore is the Montmartre region where you’ll catch glimpses of the Sacre Couer as make your way through the region, and when you get to the Sacre Couer you’ll be rewarded with incredible views across the entire city!

Dates: Go anytime!

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Explore Brighton’s Seaside

Do you want to go to the seaside? Then make sure to take a daytrip to the Brighton Seaside where there is a great laneway culture of enjoying tea, home wares or souvenir shopping and buying lots of sweets.

And when you’ve had enough of shopping and tea then take a walk along the picturesque seaside or a trip to Brighton Pier for some fun fair activities including rides and arcade games. Just make sure you pack your sense of fun!

Dates: Go anytime!

 

Road Trip around the ring road of Iceland

While Iceland may not seem like the ultimate summer destination, it is definitely an alternate option from the more touristy and crowded European destinations. While sunbathing will be limited, there will be plenty opportunities for a swim in a geothermal beach or hot spring (the Blue Lagoon anyone?)!

Hiring a campervan for a couple of weeks to drive around the ring road and explore the incredible landscape of Iceland from the geysers, waterfalls and volcanos! Plus, there will be many opportunities to swim in hot springs, hike mountains and climb glaciers (must be done with a tour company).

Being summer, the evenings will be very short so make sure you take your strongest eye mask with you.

Oh, and try the hot dogs in Reykjavik, ask a local where the best hot dogs in the world are they will point you in the right direction.

Dates: Go anytime!

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And until next time, adios amigos!

 

Let me know in the comments where you are planning your summer trip to Europe.