We love London – it’s kind of why we do what we do. But even we have to admit it’s nice to get off the tube map sometimes. Never mind what Samuel Johnson said. If you’re tired of London, there’s a whole world out there, and some of it’s closer than think.
For instance, how about swapping your morning tube journey for a rail trip to one of Europe’s cultural hotspots? Travelling by train lets you dodge the stress of a cramped budget flight, taking you directly from St Pancras (after a quick and easy check-in) into the centre of the continent’s most historic cities.
Here are five of the places you can reach this spring with Voyages-sncf.com, the UK’s leading provider of European rail tickets and passes. Book tickets to all of these destinations and thousands more in just a few clicks on www.voyages-sncf.com or via the V app.
Bordeaux is the world capital of wine, producing 960 million bottles of the stuff every year. That’s more than enough reason to add it to your European itinerary, but if you still need convincing, this ancient city is also home to some jaw-dropping architecture (Esplanade des Quinconces is the largest square in Europe) and the world-famous canelé pastry. From this summer, a new TGV line will slash the journey time from Paris by up to an hour-and-a-quarter, making it easier than ever to discover the city and the vineyards of the Gironde. Cheers to that!
London to Bordeaux: from July 2 journey times will be from six hours including a change in Paris. Fares from £111 standard class return with Voyages-sncf.com.
Forget the clichés: Amsterdam has way more to offer than legal highs and red-light window shows. Its central triangle of museums – the Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk Museum and Van Gogh Museum – attracts millions of visitors every year to gawp at some of the finest paintings on the planet. The Dutch capital is a European centre for music (everything from classical to trance) and nightlife. Maybe most importantly, it’s an absolute pleasure to navigate on foot or by bike. And arriving at Centraal Station is the perfect introduction to the city’s more civilised pleasures.
London to Amsterdam: from four hours 38 minutes including a change in Brussels. Fares from £109 standard class return with Voyages-sncf.com.
Be honest, why wouldn’t you visit Barcelona? The Catalan capital outguns even Madrid as a tourist draw, with its killer combination of stunning cityscapes (including the bizarre, spectacular works of Antoni Gaudí), great beaches and amazing food; the incredible La Boqueria food market is worth a weekend break on its own. Add in a sense of street life that’s unmatched by most European cities – political demonstrations and traditional festivals alike – and you’ve got yourself an unmissable escape. Taking the train there helps you swerve the tourist herd bussing in from the airport.
London to Barcelona: from ten hours ten minutes including a change in Paris. Fares from £126 standard class return with Voyages-sncf.com.
It’s not quite as loaded with history as Rome or Naples, but Milan is bigger, bolder and better dressed than any other Italian city. From the gothic cathedral to the twenty-first-century skyline of glass towers in Porta Nuova (the most visible symbol of Italy’s postwar economic ‘miracle’), it’s an unforgettable place to visit. Leonardo da Vinci was one of thousands of artists to do so, leaving ‘The Last Supper’ for Milan to remember him by. Getting there is a bit easier now than it would have been for him, though: just cruise in via the grand Milano Centrale station.
London to Milan: from 11 hours 26 minutes including a change in Paris. Fares from £109 standard class return with Voyages-sncf.com.
A trading city since medieval times, Cologne is still one of Europe’s major business centres, but it serves pleasure-seekers just as well. Straddling the majestic Rhine and packed with gothic landmarks (painstakingly rebuilt after World War II), it’s a feast for the eyes. It also has Germany’s highest number of pubs per capita, a modern art institute (Museum Ludwig) stuffed with Picassos and a huge annual carnival. Hop off the train at Köln Hauptbahnhof and get discovering.
London to Cologne: from five hours 17 minutes including a change in Brussels. Fares from £92 standard class return with Voyages-sncf.com.
If you like the idea of visiting Europe by train this summer, take a look at www.voyages-sncf.com for inspiration and to book your tickets quickly and easily.