The Most Scenic Train Journeys in Germany

Brockenbahn Railway, Germany
Brockenbahn Railway, Germany | © dpa picture alliance / Alamy Stock Photo
Here is an idea. On your next trip to Germany, why not ditch the car and treat yourself to a mind-blowing scenic train ride instead? A slow, leisurely train ride through dense forests, snow-blanketed mountain roads, or by sparkling lakes is guaranteed to be the highlight of your German holiday. Here is a list of the train routes in Germany that promise jaw-dropping views. Of course, you can choose to take each listed ride the other way round.

Höllentalbahn: Freiburg im Breisgau to Donaueschingen

The Höllentalbahn translates to Hell Valley Railway, but in reality is a heavenly experience and a must-do when you are in the Black Forest. This 75 km (46 miles) route connects Freiburg im Breisgau with Donaueschingen via the dramatic Dreisam river valley and takes around 90 minutes on an average. It is the steepest rail line in the country, elevating to an altitude of 278 m (912 ft) to 885 m (2,904 ft) during its course. The most exciting part of this route is crossing of the Ravenna Gorge on the 40-metre-high (131 ft) Ravenna Bridge.

The historic Höllentalbahn viaduct, Black Forest © LOETSCHER CHLAUS / Alamy Stock Photo

Cologne to Mainz

This route awaits you with the promise of breathtaking views of the Rhine Valley. The journey of 139 km takes an average of 1 hour 40 minutes. If you wish to make a stop in the pretty town of Koblenz on the way, that is an option as well. From the window of your train, enjoy views of the Rhine flanked by steep cliffs and with ships bobbing in the horizon. The route is punctuated with picture-postcard towns and hills crowned by ancient castles, making it one of the most romantic train rides in the country. When traveling from Cologne to Mainz, grab a seat on the left side of the train for the best views (and on the right side if you are traveling from Mainz to Cologne).

Train passing Ehrenfels castle, Rhine Valley © Helmut Corneli / Alamy Stock Photo

Konstanz to Offenburg

Take a memorable train ride from the picturesque Konstanz by Lake Constance to the land of Hansel and Gretel, the Black Forest. This route covers a distance of 129 km in 3 hours 33 minutes on an average (with stops). Soon after leaving Konstanz, you will see mesmerizing views of pine forests, which will gradually give way to vistas of the impenetrably dense Black Forest, lush green meadows, and quaint hamlets. The train meanders over the Hornberg viaduct and the beautiful town of Triberg on its course.

Hornberg railway viaduct in the Gutach Valley © Thomas Klee / Alamy Stock Photo

Munich to Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle, the most spectacular castle in the world, can be reached by a 91-km-long scenic train ride from Munich in two hours. Journeying across the Bavarian countryside from Munich to Füssen is equivalent to traveling through a picture postcard. Expect to see endless green meadows, rolling hills, and tiny villages. No matter how well-prepared you are, we bet you can’t stop your heart from skipping a beat at the first sight of Neuschwanstein Castle set against the majestic Bavarian Alps. To catch a perfect view of the castle from the train, remember to sit on the left side.

Neuschwanstein Castle © franky242 / Alamy Stock Photo

Munich to Mittenwald

The 81 km (average of 1 hour 51 minutes) train ride to one of the most beautiful alpine towns, Mittenwald, is a brilliant day trip idea from Munich. En route, enjoy quintessential Bavarian countryside panoramas of snow-capped Alps, cute little villages, and green fields. In the cold months, with the ground covered in snow, this region transforms into a winter wonderland.

Town of Mittenwald, Germany © manfredrf / Alamy Stock Photo

Brockenbahn: Harz Steam Railway Route

You not only shouldn’t leave the Harz Mountains before taking this ride, but this train journey itself is reason enough to travel to the Harz Mountains. The historic steam Brocken Railway starts at Drei Annen Hohne station and meanders through Harz National Park to reach Brocken, the highest peak (1,125 m) in the Harz mountain range. The journey covers a distance of only 18.9 km, but offers views of mountains and valleys that you will never forget.

Harz Mountain Railway near the Brocken © 2ebill / Alamy Stock Photo

Three Lakes Railway: Freiburg im Breisgau to Seebrugg

When you take the Höllentalbahn (Hell Valley Railway), you can either go all the way from Freiburg to Donaueschingen, or diverge southwards on the Dreiseebahn (Three Lakes Railway) from the Titisee station. The train is so named because it crosses three famous Black Forest lakes during its course – Titisee, Windgfällweiher, and Schluchsee, terminating at the Seebrugg station. Soon after leaving Titisee, you will be rewarded with uninterrupted views of the breathtaking Bärental (Bear Valley). The Feldberg-Bärental station at 967 meters above sea level is the most elevated point of the course. The journey covers a distance of 19.2 km (11.9 mi) in about an hour. Trains leave Freiburg every hour, so it’s easy to get tickets at the station without advance booking. On certain dates, steam locomotives are operated in this route.

Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany © Andrew Duke / Alamy Stock Photo

Zugspitze Railway Route

The Bavarian Zugspitze Railway is one of the only four rack railways still operating in the country. It runs from Garmisch (705 m / 2,313 ft) to the top of Germany and Germany’s only glacier, Zugspitze (2,650 m / 8,694 ft) making it the highest railway route in the country and the biggest ascent in Europe. At the station, you need to switch to a cable car to go up to the summit. The entire journey takes around 75 minutes. This journey as scintillating as the destination itself.

Zugspitzbahn, Germany © zukanowa13 / Getty Images

Saxon Steam Railway Route

The Saxon Steam Railway Route stretches for over 700 km, consisting mostly of old narrow gauge railway lines that preserve Saxony’s heritage and culture. This nostalgic journey throws up splendid surprises and a treasure trove of natural beauty, castles, and cultural icons during its course. The train meanders through Saxony, the Elbe region, the Eastern Ore Mountains, Saxon Switzerland National Park, Upper Lusatia, Lower Silesia, and the Vogtland. The culturally rich city of Dresden, Moritzburg Castle, Leipzig, the wine town of Radebeul, Ore Mountains, and Lößnitzgrund Valley are the most popular stops in this route.

The water castle Moritzburg in saxony, Germany © pureshot / Alamy Stock Photo

Fichtelberg Railway

The Fichtelberg Railway is a nostalgic steam locomotive that traverses from Cranzahl to the popular ski resort and Germany’s highest town, Oberwiesenthal. This scenic 17.4 km (10.8 mi) train ride lasts about an hour. Those 60 minutes are packed with views that are sure to exceed your imagination. On the way, you will come across a galore of photo opportunities – Sehmatal Valley, trains passing each other at the quaint Neudorf, Hammerunterwiesenthal, Pöhlbach Valley, five bridges, and a viaduct. During Christmas, you get to feast your eyes on Ore Mountain towns bathed in lights amid a blanket of snow.

Fichtelberg Railway, Germany © mauritius images GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Rügen Railway: Putbus to Göhren

The Rügensche Kleinbahn (RüKB) is a narrow-gauge railway network operating on the island of Rügen, covering a distance of 24.1 km (14.9 mi) between Putbus and Göhren. The appeal of this rail line lies in the fact that many of the steam locomotives and wagons used in this network are over 100 years old, allowing travelers to do a bit of time travel. The nostalgic train puffs through dense forests and snazzy beach resorts. Due to its leisurely pace (30 km/hour), it has affectionately been given the name Rasender Roland (Dashing Roland).

Narrow-gauge railway Rasender Roland © imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo