Great coastal train trips

Great coastal train trips

1 July 2014

From France's Cote d'Azur to Cinque Terre in Italy, coastal train trips are a fantastic way to explore some of Europe's most scenic destinations.

Rugged cliffs, white sand beaches, salty snacks and glimpses of the deep blue from a train window. These are a few of our favourite things so we've compiled some of the greatest coastal train trips to inspire you too. You might also like ten of our favourite scenic train trips in Europe - we've got plenty of ideas for your next holiday by train.

Cote d'Azur: Fréjus to Ventimiglia

Coastal trains, Cote d'Azur

Eze Village, Cote d'Azur by Synn Wang reproduced with thanks under a Creative Commons 2.0 NC-SA Licence.

The Cote d'Azur is one of the world's most famous coastlines, with white-sand beaches and bright blue water stretching for over 100km as far as the eye can see. Travelling by train from Fréjus to Ventimiglia is a wonderfully relaxing way to take in this stunning landscape, and there are more than enough picturesque spots to stop and soak up the atmosphere along the way.

French regional trains (TER) make their way back and forth along the French Riviera throughout the day, calling at Cannes, Antibes, Nice and Eze (pictured) among many others.

Tickets for TER can be booked in advance or on the day so it's straight forward to stop off here and there. Or if you've no fixed plans but want to do lots of travel, consider purchasing a Zou! Pass which entitles you to unlimited train travel in the region for €15 per person, per day.

If fancy going further afield, there's also a direct train between Milan and Nice, operated by Thello, that follows the Mediterranean coast between Genoa on Italy's Ligurian coast and Nice taking in much of this fabulous coastal scenery.

Search for trains: Frejus to Ventimiglia | Journey time: 2 hours 30 mins

Provence: Blue Coast Train

Coastal trains: blue coast train

Niolon Viaduct © Enzojz / iStock

The Blue Coast (Côte Bleue) train from Marseilles to Miramas is the best way to see the dramatic landscape surrounding Marseille, with its rugged hills and picturesque villages tucked into deep limestone inlets.

Setting out north-west from Marseilles, the train hugs the coast as it passes through L'Estaque (captured by Paul Cézanne), across the viaduct at Niolon (pictured) and many more fishing villages on a route that passes through 23 tunnels and over 18 viaducts. This is a local train, often overlooked by tourists, so tickets are cheap and easily bought on the day.

When booking tickets, make sure to choose the slower scenic train since many more services from Marseilles to Miramas take a faster, inland route. Besides the longer journey time (close to 1 hour 30 mins, versus 40 minutes for faster trains), departure boards will indicate Côte Bleue. You can also check the timetable and calling points with France's regional railway. Select timetable no.7 (Marseille-Miramas) from the menu.

Search for trains: Marseilles to Miramas | Journey time: 1 hour 20 mins

Costa Blanca: Barcelona to Alicante

coastal trains, Costa Blanca

Coast by Carlos Torres reproduced with thanks under a Creative Commons 2.0 NC-SA Licence.

From Barcelona to Alicante, high-speed trains make their way south along the Costa Blanca, calling at some of Spain's most popular destinations en route. From the Catalan capital, to the Roman city of Tarragona and the more sedate Valencia, the train hugs the coast, offering fantastic views of the Iberian Sea and white sandy beaches below. The high-speed service means it's possible to make day trips by train from Barcelona to take in the sights, or build your own holiday by rail with a mix of beach and city breaks.

If you prefer coastal views at a slower pace, then the tram from Alicante to Denia is a more leisurely way to explore the Costa Blanca. The local service tram service stops frequently along the way, calling at some of the region's quieter beaches.

Search for trains: Barcelona to Alicante | Journey time: 4 hours 45 mins

El Transcantábrico: Leon - Santiago de Compostela

Coastal trains, El Transcantábrico

El Transcantábrico © Renfe Operadora.

The oldest tourist train in Spain, and probably the most gorgeous, the El Transcantábrico harks back to the golden age of great railway journeys. The train itself is pure luxury, with fully fitted suites, lounges and an onboard restaurant to keep you in comfort for a trip that lasts from 3 nights to an entire week.

The view from the window isn't bad either, as the narrow-gauge train travels along 400 miles of incredible scenery, skirting Spain's northern coastline and meandering among mountains and rivers. It comes with a price-tag that reflects its grandeur so probably one to save for a special occasion.

If your budget doesn't stretch to luxury railways, consider a trip on Spain's narrow-gauge FEVE railway which meanders across Spain’s northern coast between Bilbao (Basque Country) and Ferrol (Galicia) taking in much of the same scenery for a fraction the price.

Search for trains: El Transcantábrico | Journey time: 3, 4 or 7 nights

Lake Geneva: Geneva - Montreux

coastal trains Lake Geneva

Chateau de Chillon by Chris James reproduced with thanks under a Creative Commons 2.0 NC-SA Licence.

Though not a typical coastal route, the train from Geneva to Montreux deserves a mention. Along the north shore of Lake Geneva it's only an hour between these two Swiss cities, but with views of crisp clear water and towering Alpine summits this is perhaps the most scenic of the journeys featured. It's also the only of our coastal train trips that will be just as beautiful (if not more) in winter than in summer.

InterCity trains run throughout the day, with tickets available online or at the station.

Search for trains: Geneva to Montreux | Journey time: 1 hour

Italian Riviera: Genoa to Civitavecchia

coastal trains Italian Riviera

Cinque Terre, Vernazza by Katherine Herriman reproduced with thanks under a Creative Commons 2.0 NC-SA Licence.

Local trains go direct from Genoa to Civitavecchia 7 days a week, with the entire journey possible in less than 5 hours. But the real pleasure in taking the scenic train along the Italian Riviera is the places along the way. From the stunning architecture of the city of Genoa to the iconic villages of Cinque Terre, the Ligurian coast has much to offer.

All the Cinque Terre towns have their own train station, served by regional trains. The nearest mainline station is La Spezia (around an hour south of Genoa) where you'll need to alight and board a 'Regionale' train to Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza (pictured), Corniglia, Manarola, or Riomaggiore.

Search for trains: Genoa to Civitavecchia | Journey time: 4 hours 20 mins

Scottish East Coast: Berwick upon Tweed to Edinburgh

Coastal trains North Berwick

Man Overboard by Neil Roger reproduced with thanks under a Creative Commons 2.0 NC-ND Licence.

The high-speed line from London to Edinburgh has slashed journey times between the capital cities to just 4 hours, 20 minutes. But the route is remarkable for its scenery, too.

At Berwick-upon-Tweed the train crosses the Royal Border Bridge, signalling your approach to the borders of Scotland. From there you'll be rewarded with superb views of Scotland's east coast and the rough waters of the North Sea. Sit on the right-hand side of the train (facing east) on the journey toward Edinburgh for glimpses of tiny fishing communities and one lonely abandoned house on its own rocky outcrop.

If you've got a taste for exploring this part of Scotland consider a day trip by train from Edinburgh to North Berwick (pictured), from where it's possible to walk the John Muir Way - a spectacular coastal path to Dunbar, which lets you appreciate this coast up close.

Search for trains: Berwick to Edinburgh | Journey time: 45 minutes

Main image and thumbnail: Niolon Viaduct © Enzojz / iStock

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