It’s becoming increasingly difficult to marry the desire to discover new parts of Europe with the wish to reduce our carbon footprints. Luckily, these five exciting destinations are all reachable by train, meaning their charms can be explored with a guilt-free conscience.
Lyon is often overlooked by UK visitors, who use its airport as a transit hub on their way to ski resorts in the French Alps, but little do they know that they’ve been missing out on a city with much to offer.
With a direct train line from Paris that makes it a cinch to reach, it’s the perfect holiday destination. A city of two rivers, Lyon offers romantic strolls along the Rhône and Saône, the latter offering incredible panoramic views of the old-town embankment. At night an illuminated footpath tracks the Rhône to Tête d’Or Park, a place with an otherworldly atmosphere that’s not to be missed.
Some of the very best French cuisine can also be found in this city, famed for being the country’s gastronomic capital, boasting specialties like Coq au vin (chicken in red wine sauce) and Saucisson de Lyon brioche (sausage brioche).
For those looking for a change of pace, there is the grand Casino Lyon Vert where guests don gowns and tuxes to frequent the Roulette tables, a game originally developed in France and getting its name from the French expression ‘little wheel’.
Sitting just inside the French border with Germany lies Strasbourg, a city that combines stunning historical architecture with modern institutions and museums that will have even the most fervent culture vultures occupied for days. Strasbourg’s centre piece is the city’s very own version of Notre-Dame, a Gothic cathedral aptly called the Notre-Dame de Strasbourg. For the more politically minded there are tours available of the Council of Europe or you can allow your mind to drift on a boat tour of the Rhine river.
When the city’s cobbles become too much for weary feet, it’s advised to hop on a bike or bus to go sample the fine wines that the surrounding Alsace region’s vineyards are renowned for. This incredible destination is made all the more attractive by the fact it can be reached by rail in under six hours from London, making it an ideal option for a romantic long weekend.
Everyone who visits this German gem comes away raving about its beautiful architecture, bottomless number of beer halls and the fact it even has a museum dedicated to chocolate.
Historically the city has been split, with the west seen as the classy side of the river and the east quite the opposite, but change is afoot, with regeneration projects making both wings of the city equally worth a visit.
Cologne is also known for its green spaces, with one of Europe’s best animal friendly zoos and beautiful botanical gardens on site, whose tropical Palm House is the perfect way to warm chilly fingers or toes. If nightlife is your thing then bars such as the grungy Stiefel or Sixpack will keep you entertained well into the small hours.
The Beautiful South immortalised this Dutch port with their song “Rotterdam (or Anywhere)” and in the time it takes to hum this catchiest of tunes a few times you can be there on a train from London, the journey typically taking a smidgen over three hours.
Having been heavily destroyed during the Second World War the city is well-known for its ground-breaking modern architecture, the highlights of which are the Cube Houses and the unusual shoe horse shaped Markthal indoor market.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, it would be remiss of visitors not to sample the city’s famous seafood, with restaurants serving up delicacies such as Pernod soaked mussels and fresh lobster.
Top all this off with a craft beer from one of the many breweries that dot the streets, and then hop on a water taxi, which will skim you across town to a soft pillow, and the end of a wonderfully relaxing break.