As travellers have become more eco-conscious, train travel has become more appealing. Quintessentially's expert team of luxury travel advisors has put together a list of European getaways, accessible from London by train. While the journey may be longer and include some hopping on and off trains with multiple transfers, the added effort is well worth it to reduce your carbon footprint.
Approximately 11 hours from London via train, Hamburg is the second-largest city in Germany. A design-led town, the creative scene has grown to rival that of Berlin's. Make The Fontenay your base. The beautiful lake-front hotel is the perfect starting point from which to explore—try to catch a performance at the recently opened Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall. The stunning building is located directly on the water and is a spectacular venue from which to experience an orchestral recital.
Make sure to visit the St Pauli neighbourhood. Located adjacent to the famous Reeperbahn entertainment and red-light district, the fashionable area has many great bistros and boutiques alongside traditional old seamen's bars. Also, visit the former meatpacking district, the Sterschanze. Every Saturday, they have a fantastic flea market.
A single three-hour journey on Eurostar will land you in Antwerp. Renowned for its art and fashion scenes, the beautiful city has a design and art history focus. Stay in a convent—August, a sleek boutique hotel, has repurposed the building and turned it into a tranquil, modern sanctuary. Located just outside the center of the city, the surrounding neighbourhood is perfect for exploring by bicycle.
See four masterpieces by Rubens in The Cathedral Of Our Lady, a breathtaking Gothic church. Afterward, do some shopping: Graanmarkt 13 is a specialty store in a townhouse, that is similar to Merci in Paris. As a major diamond port, the diamond district is an excellent place to pick up some sparkly luxury jewellery. And, the city is the world's largest coffee port—so delicious coffee abounds. Try a filter coffee from Normo.
Nine hours by train will take you to Carcassonne. The medieval hilltop city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and truly feels like a trip back through time. Famous for its watchtowers and double walls, visiting is an incredible experience. Hotel De La Cité is in the center of the town next to the Saint-Nazaire Basilica and has a fantastic Michelin-starred restaurant with a terrace overlooking the city walls.
Food and wine are excellent throughout the city, as one would expect from a French town in the heart of the Languedoc region. Take a boat tour along the canal, then step outside the walled city to visit Lache Pas La Grappe, an unassuming wine bar featuring sustainable and organic wines alongside local cheeses. Cross the lovely Pont Vieux bridge to visit another ancient city, Bastide St Louis. Their fabulous thrice-weekly market features an expansive array of local produce alongside homemade French delicacies.
After a nine-hour train journey, you'll arrive in magical Chamonix. Known for being a winter ski destination, the town is just as enjoyable for non-skiers and during the summer. The five-star Hotel Mont Blanc has played host to a slew of celebrities and notable guests throughout its 150-year history, and with good reason. Facing the Mont Blanc mountain range, the beautiful hotel has excellent views and a delicious restaurant alongside a happening bar.
Take the Panoramic Mont Blanc cable car, the highest cable car in the world. The three-stage journey passes over the Vallée Blanche glacier valley as well as the Mont Blanc massif, finishing just across the French Italian border. Or, cycle—the expansive countryside features several road bike trips through the valley. Pizzeria Des Moulins in the center of town serves the best pizza, with a French twist.
Approximately ten hours from London by train, this Basque region town is lovely for its beaches and surf—and is considered the culinary capital of Spain. Visit a local bar, and you're likely to be served pintxos, the area's signature array of snacks. Ibaia et Arramak is a boutique guest house in the historic town centre but is still close to beaches and countryside. The thoughtful property has a clean and contemporary aesthetic, and fantastic service with a sense of community—staff are on hand to recommend restaurants or trips to explore the surrounding mountains.
Spend the day at Playa de la Concha, the city's signature beach. Restaurant options dot the coastline, so you can break for paella and go straight back to the sand and surf. Stroll into town, and visit the Belle Epoque-era City Hall, originally built as a casino, overlooking the ocean. The Old Town's Museo de San Telmo is the world's largest museum of Basque history and is worth a visit.
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