Slow Travel: 6 European cities you can get to by train
Flygskram. Never has a Swedish word been adopted into the English vernacular quicker than gauntlet, moped and umbrella. Yet this term, which translates as “shame of flying”, is increasingly influencing the way we globetrot. After all, not only does travelling by train cut down on that airport stress, but it’s also the most ecologically friendly method to take a journey.
Emma Kemp, the project lead for Climate Perks states that: “A return flight from London to Berlin clocks up the same amount of carbon as 13 return train journeys, so taking one less flight per year is an incredible step you can take for the planet.”
Also, not only is taking the train better for the environment, but it also widens your vocabulary. After all, it’s not everyday you can be accused of tagskyrt – train bragging.
In recent years the city of jam, jute and journalism has become a cultural mecca as it’s now home to the V&A Dundee. There’s also plenty of other sights and attractions, such as the Antarctic research vessel RRS Discovery and the Broughty Castle museum.
Stay The Hotel Indigo Dundee is a former textile mill with design-led rooms that echo its industrial heritage, and its Daisy Tasker restaurant is filled with fine, locally sourced food offerings.
Travel time 6 hours and 4 minutes from London King’s Cross Station
Cost From £159 return
Even heading to the south of France is achievable by train. Travel to Paris on the Eurostar and transfer onto rail company Ouigo, which is offering one-way tickets to Toulouse from €19. Then rent a Velo Toulouse bike from its self-service scheme, and take a leisurely ride by the Canal du Midi’s towpaths.
Stay The Hotel Albert 1er, is a family-run hotel with elegant and functional ensuite rooms. It also serves up quality, local and organic products from the region.
Travel time 2 hours to Paris via Eurostar, 8 hours from Paris by Ouigo
Cost From £244 return; Ouigo €19
“Auld Reekie” might not be everyone’s idea of a holiday, but this Scottish city has enough to shout about. Wander leisurely up and down the Royal Mile and take the time to visit its plethora of shops and sights or take a ramble up the extinct volcano of Arthur’s seat. The Edinburgh Wellbeing Festival also takes place on the first weekend of February, and is dedicated to health and fitness with food, drink, yoga classes and workshops.
Stay The George is a collection of townhouses in the New Town area of the city with a boutique feel and restaurant and coffee bar.
Travel time 4 hours 20 minutes from London King’s Cross Station
Cost From £146 return
We might be severing ties in a political sense with our European chums, so all the more reason to visit this hub of culture. Take yourself off to the Atomium, arguably the city’s most remarkable museum. Six of its nine spheres are accessible to the public, and enjoy the restaurant at the top that offers superb views of the whole city. Just nearby is Mini-Europe, which features 1:25 reproductions of monuments in 80 cities and 350 buildings, and is a reminder how interconnected we are as a continent.
Stay Drawing inspiration from the neighbouring Botanical Gardens, the rooms and suites at the Hotel Indigo Brussels are designed with tropical, herbal and floral themes in mind, and make for a calming stay. It’s also just a short bus ride away from the Eurostar terminal, so perfect for getting settled in quickly.
Travel time 1 hours 53 minutes from London St Pancras International
As the third biggest city in France, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is certainly worth a visit. The sheer architectural features of the famous Traboules, built in the Renaissance era, make for a visit in themselves. These delightful passageways are open to the public and run beneath the buildings above straight to the Saône River. For more culture, head to the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon and fill your mind with paintings and education galore in this former abbey from the 17th century. Once you’ve finished there, pay a visit to the expansive Parc de la Tete d’Or for a walk around one of its 18 tracks and experience some childish fun with friends and family at its mini-golf course.
Stay The Hotel Dieu, situated in the Grand Hôtel Dieu complex is one of Lyon’s most iconic buildings, the site of a former hospital. Located right by the river’s edge, its understated luxury rides tandem with the history of Lyon and is fit for couples and families alike. ihg.com
Travel time 4 hours and 55 minutes from London St Pancras International
In the time it takes to get to Scotland, you can pull into the ’Dam’s Centraal railway station. What better way to explore the city than to languidly pootle on a canal cruise. Get a culture fix at the Rijksmuseum or if shopping’s your thing, head to De Negen Straatjes (the Nine Streets) area, which is full of boutique shops. Head to the Vondelpark for tea and cake at the wonderful ‘t Blauwe Theehuis. That’s without mentioning all the other kind of cafés to relax in…
Stay The Kimpton De Witt Amsterdam exudes a modern approach to luxury whilst keeping true to Dutch design. Its “Stay Human” rooms invite guests to engage in mindfulness and water the room’s plants, write down your experiences in the confessions book, and capture your Amsterdam experiences with the in-room Polaroid camera, and leave for the next guests to enjoy.
Travel time 5 hours 50 minutes from London St Pancras International
Cost: £304 via Eurostar