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.
It might take a tad longer than the rest to get to by rail but, boy is the Austrian capital worth the extra schlep. Visit Schönnbrun Palace, home to six centuries of the Habsburg dynasty, and their other pad, the Hofburg Palace, now home to the president. Vienna’s Museum of Natural History gives London’s version a run for its money in the iconic building stakes, while Belvedere Palace houses the world’s largest collection of paintings by Gustav Klimt. Find out more about Vienna here.
Stay The super stylish Hotel Sans Souci Wien is a boutique hotel with uber stylish furnishings and a bar that really knows it’s champers – there are more than 60 varieties on offer. There’s also a spa to treat your weary body to after a day stomping around the Museums Quarter, which is just a stone’s throw away.
Travel time from London 13 hours
Cost Changing in Brussels and Frankfurt, from £113
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 €13. 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 from London 2 hrs to Paris via Eurostar, 4 hrs 20 mins from Paris by Ouigo
Cost London-Paris from £39 each way; Ouigo from €13
The city of jam, jute and journalism (it’s home to The Beano, used to be one of the world’s largest manufacturers of jute, and is also a big home of marmalade, rather than actual jam, but that doesn’t rhyme quite so well) 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 from London 5 hours and 53 minutes from King’s Cross, or get the sleeper train from London Euston
Cost From £196 return
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 from London 1 hours 53 minutes from London St Pancras International
Cost London-Brussels from £39 by Eurostar
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.
Travel time from London 4 hours and 55 minutes from London St Pancras International
Cost From £98 each way by Eurostar
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 (The Blue Tea house to you and me). 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 from London 5 hours 50 minutes from London St Pancras International
Cost From £39 each way by Eurostar