The Eurostar to Bordeaux
London > Bordeaux
The Eurostar might have Paris on tap for Londoners looking for a day away, but they’re also improving their further-flung routes all the time. This year the high-speed line to Bordeaux opened, making the journey 70 minutes quicker, meaning you can be touring vineyards in under six hours. Expect the usual Eurostar fare onboard, but do time the trip to take in the French countryside as you whiz to the south, and don’t miss the newly opened La Cité du Vin.
Price from £63 each way
The Caledonian Sleeper
London > Scottish Highlands
In the mood for a change of scenery whilst staying on the island? Head north to the underrated Scottish Highlands. The Caledonian Sleeper train has been totally renovated for 2018 with new double beds (breakfast can be sent to your room), en-suite rooms and that all important Caledonian Club Car (for a wee dram of whisky on arrival). The décor is still relatively low-key but, once you reach the Scottish Borders, it’s all about the scenery anyway. Make sure you’re up in time to take in the best parts.
Price from £195 each way for First Class
The Glacier Express
London > Zürich > St Moritz
Train travel certainly isn’t the quickest way to make your way across Europe, but a trip on the Glacier Express’ monumental tour of the Alps is still one of the best ways to see the Swiss mountains, Zermatt and Lake Maggiore – and definitely one to do by day. Dubbed the world’s slowest express train, on the Glacier Express it really is all about the journey: make your way from London to Zürich, then onwards to the Alpine resort of St Moritz to board the luxury Swiss train, which takes just under 8 hours – ideal for a full day of mountain seeing. In autumn, a new luxury 20-seater coach will be introduced, serving five-course meals and with its own private bar.
Prices from £137 each way, plus seat reservation fees
The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
London > Venice
If you’ve had enough of group holidays and are in the mood for some serious la dolce vita vibes, Belmond’s Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is the ticket. It’s not cheap, but for luxe Art Deco cabin interiors and a real feel for the Golden Age of travel, it’s brilliantly OTT, and yes, the dress code definitely veers into “you can never be overdressed” territory. When it comes to meal times, key ingredients are sourced locally at train stops, so look out for lobsters from Brittany or salt marsh lamb from Mont St Michel. And do make time for a nightcap in the Bar Car or early morning cocoa as the personal stewards are on call around the clock.
Prices from £4960
London > Toulon > Mallorca
Now this is the party one. Corsica Ferries’ brand new Toulon to Mallorca route opened for business this spring, meaning the line now enables passengers to travel from France to the Balearics via twice-weekly daytime and overnight services, with private cabins on board. While it may not compete in the chic stakes with the Orient Express, this is the one to take your whole crew on. Start your trip with a superbly scenic seven and a half hour train journey from London, through Provence and on to Toulon, before arriving at the historic port of Alcudia. Here a trans-island railway will take you to Manacor and Inca en route to Palma and the vintage “orange train” to Soller. Expect the food provisions to be basic – bring your own or pick up local favourites as you stop off en route.
Prices from £60 from London to Toulon and £18 for Toulon to Alcudia one-way.
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