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7 ways to ride the rails into Europe

With the arrival of Eurostar’s direct Amsterdam service, Europe is within increasingly easier reach by rail

7  ways to ride the rails into Europe
Image: RhB

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1 // Dutch direct
Hop aboard the new direct Eurostar route from London to Amsterdam which launched this month, whisking passengers from London St Pancras straight to the Netherlands’ capital in 3h41m, from £35 one-way.

2 // Mainline to the Med’
Since launching in 2015, Eurostar’s London-Marseille service means it’s possible to ride the rails from London direct to the shores of the Med. Trains run five times weekly during peak holiday months, less often in spring and autumn, and infrequently in winter. Travel via Lille is easier, with a same station change, while Paris involves a cross-town transit, between Gare du Nord and Gare du Lyon — it offers a better choice of fares and departures, plus travel on impressive double decker TGVs. London-Marseille from around £120 return. Book from anywhere in the UK in one ticket (you can usually print it at home) via: loco2.com

3 // The train to Spain
Many bemoan the demise of the Elipsos TrenHotel sleeper train from Paris to Barcelona but the speedy new TGV from Paris direct to cities in eastern Spain is a joy. To maximise holiday time, take a morning Eurostar to Paris, a two-hour 20-minute journey costing from £58 return, switch stations to Gare du Lyon, then hop aboard an afternoon TGV Duplex service to Figueres, Girona, or Barcelona from as little as £36 each way. It’s worth noting there are still a few sleepers from Paris, via the French Intercités de Nuit service, which is, by a small margin, the most time-efficient way to get to the Spanish border, with local trains to stations beyond. For further information, visit: seat61.com

4 // Rail and sail to Ireland
Travel from West Coast Mainline stations to Holyhead, then hop aboard the ferry to Dublin, all in one ticket, courtesy of Virgin Trains, Irish Ferries and Stena Line (or from Welsh mainline stations, with Arriva). Advance one-way from London starts at £39.

5 // Andiamo all’Italia!
Tickets on Thello’s sleeper trains between Paris and Italy (Milan-Verona-Venice) include sleeper or more economical couchette (all seats convert). Journey time Paris-Milan is around 11hrs and costs from €35/€95 (£31/£84 one-way). Or book a high-speed TGV from Paris to Turin/Milan, journey time six/seven hours, from €29/£26 one-way. loco2.com

6 // Scenic Switzerland
There’s arguably no grander scenic rail ride in Europe than the Bernina Express (pictured), a narrow gauge railway train with iconic red panoramic viewing cars that make the most of the epic Alpine scenery between Chur in Switzerland and Tirano, Italy. Take the Eurostar to Paris then travel across town to Gare du Lyon to catch the high-speed TGV to Zurich (four hours). From there, catch a regional train (one hour) to Chur for the Bernina Express. rhb.ch/en/panoramic-trains/bernina-express

7 // On to Prague
Czech Railways offers some very cheap deals to Prague from Brussels (from as little as €29/£26 one-way), with connections that mean with the earliest Eurostar morning departure, and a fingers-crossed-quick-change in the Belgian capital, you can get to the Czech Republic by tea time. For more info, consult the oracle that’s The Man In Seat 61: seat61.com

Published in the March 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)