New and newly improved train routes in Europe in 2019
From new routes, more high-speed connections, fantastic onboard services and the continued environmental benefits, 2019 is set to be a big year for rail travel in Europe. We are kicking the year off in style by showcasing some of our European rail travel highlights.
Turin to Lecce
Slow travel is at the core of all we do at Loco2, which is all about being mindful and looking at the bigger picture rather than simply rushing from A to point B. Italian trains have upped their game in 2019, with a new high-speed service from the country’s top to toe between Turin and Lecce. Although you have the benefits of high-speed travel, there are many ways to celebrate the slow movement en route. Turin, the capital city of Piedmont in northern Italy, is birthplace of the Slow Food movement. Piedmont also comes from the Latin, meaning ‘at the foot of the mountains’ and so, as you can guess, it is also gateway to the Italian Alps where slow travel equates with beautifully snowy travel.
This new rail connection to Lecce in the Puglia region saves around 90 minutes from previous journey times. The journey is an absolute joy, passing through Milan and Bologna. An hour-long run along the Adriatic Coast to Bari and Brindisi is your next train treat, taking in the Adriatic's crystalline waters. You will wish you had booked a stop here, so we highly recommend that you slow down and just do so.
It all comes to a stop in Lecce, however, which must surely be Puglia at its prettiest. Its cultural heritage ranges from 17th-century baroque buildings such as Basilica di Santa Croce, to an almost hidden away Roman theatre. Piazza del Duomo is packed with people doing the obligatory ‘passeggiata’ at night after a day of bronzing at many beaches in the area.
Madrid to Granada
Feliz año nuevo from Spain, with a new train journey that takes you between Madrid and Granada. The new train route has one train a day in each direction and takes just over 5 hrs, two hours quicker than the previous train and bus option. Madrid needs little introduction as one of Europe’s most splendid capitals. Puerta del Sol, for example, is a striking central square surrounded by a collection of historic buildings, such as the 18th-century Post Office which is now the Presidential offices. From the Palace of Madrid to the Prado Museum, Santiago Bernabéu stadium to Retiro Park, Madrid sums up metropolitan cool.
This new Madrid to Granada route passes through the Sierra Morena mountain range and Despeñaperros Natural Park, the highlight of which is its dramatically beautiful, 77km² gorge. When you arrive in Granada, in Spain's Andalucían region, the first thing that strikes you is its dramatic Sierra Nevada backdrop. From architecture to food, Granada is an eclectic mix of Spanish and Islamic heritage, its iconic cultural landmark being The Alhambra, initially designed as a fortress and palace in 889 AD. It is an uphill walk of about 30 mins from the city centre, although you can catch buses up there too. However, its hilltop position means that it also promises the most spectacular views across the city and surrounding area.
Berlin to Vienna - sleeper train
As shown in our ‘Great Train Comparison’ report, Austria's rail services are some of the finest in Europe and they have just got even better with the introduction of their NightJet sleeper service between the two great capital cities of Berlin and Vienna, giving you much more daytime to enjoy in these cultural hubs. The sleeper service departs at Berlin at 18:41 and arrives in Vienna at 07:00 the next morning. Onboard, you have the options of a deluxe compartment with an en-suite, a 4-6 person couchette or a reclining seat. Arrive in Vienna to watch the sunrise over the Danube or Berlin to see it hit the heights of the iconic Fernsehturm Tower.
London to the Netherlands
As you can now travel on a direct Eurostar train between London and Amsterdam, getting to and around the Netherlands by rail has never been easier. It‘s now a touch under 4 hrs to arrive at Amsterdam Centraal from London’s St Pancras International. By June 2019, the frequency of these direct services will increase from two to three trains per day during the week and from one to two services on Saturdays and Sundays. From Amsterdam, you can easily connect with Dutch rail services and book the entire journey on Loco2. Such as to Utrecht, just 18 mins from Amsterdam and a much less touristy world of canals and traditional gabled houses. Or from Amsterdam to The Hague, where journey time is just 23 mins. Explore the Peace Palace, excellent city parks, the International Court of Justice and the Mauritshuis Gallery to see some Dutch masterpieces. As well as some vast sandy beaches.
Vienna to Kraków
An additional Eurocity daytime service launches 13 April 2019 connecting Vienna with the southern Polish city of Kraków. You can set booking alerts already with tickets available from beginning February. Up until now, there was only one service a day between these two cities, and there will now be two. Both are direct and take a touch over 6 hrs. There is also a EuroNight service between the two cities which takes 8 hrs 12 mins.
Kraków is as good a place as any to begin your Polish journey with cultural heritage highlights including the 16th-century Wawel Castle, the Old Town with its underground Rynek Museum and the Kazimierz Jewish district. Kraków is also the starting point for visits to Auschwitz-Birkenau, which is a 1 hr 30 mins journey by bus from nearby Glowny station to Auschwitz.
The introduction of this additional daytime service coincides with an increased supply of rail services heading west from Poland. New services on routes such as Wroclaw to Berlin have increased the flow of trains from east to west in 2019.
Blog image credits top to bottom: Turin, San Carlo Square - iStock ©Alessandro Cristiano, Polignano a Mare - iStock ©graemenicholson, Trees in Retiro park - iStock ©mariusz_prusaczyk, The Alhambra - iStock ©WillSelarep, Vienna sunrise - iStock ©Alexpoison, Two red bikes on a bridge - iStock ©zmeel, Krakow at sunrise, Poland - iStock ©TomasSereda.
Feeling free in Portugal
Travelling to Portugal by train takes you off the beaten tourist trail, with Lisbon, Porto and the Costa Verde high up on the list of its heritage highs.