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Flight-free holidays: 7 amazing European cities to visit by train

Travelling by train can be a lot easier than flying.
Travelling by train can be a lot easier than flying.   -   Copyright  Getty Images
By Euronews Travel

Train travel around Europe has a rich history, as generations of inter-railers know.

With growing awareness of the carbon footprint left by global tourism, more and more people are turning to the continent’s extensive railways to cut down on air miles.

These routes can be surprisingly fast - just 3.5 hours from London to Amsterdam - and even the long ones have luxurious sleeper routes to recommend them.

Travellers are increasingly sharing the joys of slow travel. Getting from A to B is a pleasure when you’re immersed in the varied landscapes of Europe.

So from cultural hubs in the north to sunshine-soaked destinations in the south, we’ve picked seven fantastic cities in Europe that you don’t have to fly to.

For mountain scenery: Bern

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A view of the old city centre and Untertorbrucke bridge over the river Aare.Getty Images via Canva

Switzerland’s postcard-perfect capital is located on the banks of the crystal-clear River Aare and surrounded by the towering beauty of the snow-capped Alps. It’s also home to 6km of sheltered sandstone shopping arcades packed with independent cellar bars, cafés and craft shops. For the best views over the medieval Altstadt (Old Town), climb the 344 steps up to the top of Bern Cathedral, the country’s highest church tower at 101 metres.

Direct trains run to Bern from Paris and Frankfurt in 4.5 hours. From Brussels and London, the journey takes 7.5 hours with one change.

Plan your trip at myswitzerland.com

For foodie delights: Florence

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Florence is an ideal destination for a sleeper train journey.Getty Images via Canva

It’s impossible to pick just one gourmet hotspot in Europe, but Italy’s enchanting city of Florence is a particularly mouth-watering choice. Emphasising local, sustainable and seasonal food, Tuscan treats such as schiacciata flatbread and flavourful Florentine steak are often on the menu. Tuck into tagliatelle made with locally sourced truffle and porcini mushrooms, or go for wild boar pappardelle pasta, followed by arguably the best gelato in the entire country.

Night trains reach Florence in 10 hours from Munich, making the city an ideal destination for sleeper train holidays. From Geneva, the journey is under 6.5 hours.

Get inspiration at visitflorence.com

For culture vultures: Amsterdam

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With an international train station in the centre of the city, the cultural hub of Amsterdam is idealGetty Images via Canva

Thanks to famous painters like Van Gogh and Rembrandt, Amsterdam is a city of iconic art. Home to the Dutch Masters’ works in the Rijksmuseum and the equally engaging modern pieces at the Stedelijk, it’s easy to see why the Netherlands' capital is considered one of Europe’s cultural hubs. Explore further and you’ll discover plenty more, from outdoor sculptures to tiny independent galleries.

You can catch a direct train from Frankfurt to Amsterdam in four hours, from London in just over 3.5 hours and from Paris in three.

Plan your visit at iamsterdam.com

For sun-soaked sightseeing: Seville

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The skyline in Seville's old quarter.Getty Images via Canva

Although a little out of the way, southern Spain’s Seville is a vibrant destination that generously rewards visitors willing to travel those extra miles. This is a city steeped in history, with architectural highlights ranging from the world’s largest Gothic cathedral to the exquisite Royal Alcázar palace. A sultry, sun-drenched setting of winding lanes, heavenly tapas and Flamenco dancing, it will most definitely leave its mark on you.

Seville is 2.5 hours by direct train from Madrid. A trip from Paris or Lisbon takes 12 to 13 hours.

Organise your flight-free trip at spain.info

For intriguing architecture: Cologne

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Cologne is full of unique architecture.Getty Images via Canva

Germany’s Cologne is a fascinating blend of ancient Roman walls and medieval churches. The twin spires of its Kölner Dom cathedral are an iconic part of the skyline, and the view over the city’s eye-catching sprawl from the South Tower is well worth the 533-step climb. This structure also houses the world’s largest free-swinging bell, weighing in at 24 tonnes.

You can travel to Cologne from London in 4.5 hours, changing in Brussels. From Paris, the direct journey is three hours, making it an ideal option for your train holidays in Europe.

Find out more at cologne-tourism.com

For lush vineyards: Bordeaux

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Hectares of vineyards can be found a short distance from Bordeaux.Getty Images via Canva

Arguably the wine capital of France, Bordeaux delights visitors with its neat and pretty vineyards. Here you can tour some of the hundreds of aristocratic wine estates, or châteaux, to learn more about the wine-making process and sample the end product. In the city itself, the ultra-modern Cite du Vin museum is an impressive venue dedicated to bringing wine and its heritage to a younger generation through immersive exhibitions.

Bordeaux is two hours by train from Paris. You can get there from London or Amsterdam in around 5.5 hours with one change or in 4.5 hours from Brussels.

Plan your trip at bordeaux-tourism.co.uk

For imperial grandeur: Vienna, Austria

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Vienna has a number of imposing palaces and buildings.Getty Images via Canva

Austria’s capital is renowned as the world’s City of Music thanks to a heritage that includes Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and Strauss. Visit the world-famous Musikverein, where the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra play, or explore the interactive exhibits at the innovative Haus der Musik museum. Alternatively, discover the imperial legacy left by the Habsburgs at the Hofburg Palace, which dates back to the 13th century and is one of the world’s largest palace complexes.

You can reach Vienna from Paris in 10 hours with one change, or from Brussels in 11. A direct journey from Frankfurt takes just 6.5 hours.

Compose your visit at wien.info/en