Tour Talk: Rail Travel in Europe

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Budapest’s Central Market. (Photo courtesy of Alexander + Roberts)

Today’s modern traveler wants to connect with a destination’s past, and traveling via rail offers a peephole into those bygone times, a great complement to the castles, museums and cafes often visited when traveling through Europe. Moreover, rail travel gives vacationers easy access to an array of countries within Europe and cuts travel time down. It also allows guests to take in scenic views as they pass through mountain ranges and cities, indulge in local food, and experience unique cultures along the way.

Luxe Belmond
Belmond is launching Ireland’s first luxury sleeper train next month with the debut of Belmond Grand Hibernian, which will be offering 2-, 4-, and 6-night journeys from Dublin: Realm of Giants; Legends and Loughs; and Grand Tour of Ireland, respectively. On these train journeys, guests can indulge in artisan cheeses, seafood, and local whiskies in the two dining cabins, call luxury en-suite cabins home, and gather to view the passing scenery in the masterfully designed observation car. Rates for the Aug. 9 inaugural itinerary, the 4-night Legends and Loughs, start at $7,717 pp; the 2-night itinerary starts at $4,513 pp.

Belmond’s renowned Venice Simplon-Orient Express, which cuts through the heart of Europe stopping at some of the continent’s most celebrated destinations, christened a new bar car, 3674—it’s the social hub of the train, serving as the location for birthday and anniversary celebrations.

Itineraries aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient Express include the 6-day Journey from Paris to Istanbul, which departs only once a year and features a private tour of Paris and Budapest, and a visit to Sinaia’s Peles Castle. Call for rates.

Discover European Gems
Various tour operators offer rail travel as part of their itinerary, including Alexander+Roberts and Trafalgar. The latter heads into Switzerland for its 8-day Contrasts of Switzerland itinerary, which showcases the country’s vast landscapes including its mountain scenery, lakes and bustling cities, making stops in Zurich, St. Moritz, Zermatt, Geneva, Interlaken and Lucerne. The itinerary offers travelers the opportunity to see bits of Switzerland that are only visible by rail. They’ll board the famed Glacier Express for an 8-hour railway journey that will take them over 291 bridges, through 91 tunnels and across the Oberalp Pass at 6,669 ft. above sea level. Then it’s off to Geneva via high-speed train; and then from Geneva, the itinerary continues along the Golden Pass Route with stops in the heart of the Swiss Alps. Rates start at $2,900 pp with departures running through September 2016. 2017 departures will be available and announced in Trafalgar’s 2017 Europe & Britain brochure, available in October.

Alexander+Roberts, meanwhile, offers, as part of its diverse menu, the 13-day Grand Capitals of Eastern Europe by Rail itinerary and the 10-day Gems of Central Europe by Rail.

The Grand Capitals of Eastern Europe by Rail journey includes varied sightseeing highlights, including visits to the Zwack Distillery in Budapest and the Schindler Factory Museum in Krakow, dinner with a Polish family at their home in Lowicz, and learning to make traditional Czech kolache during a private in-home cooking class, but it’s the rail journey that truly differentiates this itinerary. Travelers enjoy first class rail travel to Warsaw; a scenic first class rail journey across Poland and into eastern Germany; and first class rail travel from Germany to the Czech Republic, taking in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains as they make their way to Prague. Rates start at $5,599 pp dbl; rates for the Sept. 9 departure are currently $5,099.

The Gems of Central Europe by Rail trip begins in Budapest and ends in Prague, with a stop in Vienna in-between, and with lots of sightseeing along the way. The cool aspect of this journey, however, is that the mode of transportation between cities is via rail—in other words, hanging with the locals. Rates start at $2,999 for November 2016 through March 2017 on Superior First Class accommodations. Guests can further customize their trip with choice of hotels and FreeStyle Travel Add-Ons such as a 4-day tour through Warsaw or a 3-day tour that includes visits to Sorrento and Pompeii.

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