Twenty years ago, when we embarked on the journey to launch Hidden Europe magazine, we thought we knew Europe inside out. Little did we know that swapping planes for trains would unveil a whole new world of travel possibilities. Today, I continue to embark on long journeys crisscrossing the continent, relying solely on trains, ferries, and buses. Join me on this journey to embrace the art of slow travel and discover the hidden treasures of Europe.
The Magic of Journeys
Journeys are more than just a means to an end; they are experiences in themselves. Spending a day or two in transit can be remarkably restorative. It changes our perception of time and distance, liberating us from the constraints of meticulous planning. Let’s explore four delightful slow travel ideas that won’t break the bank.
1. To Tuscany and Beyond
Begin your adventure with the 9.31am Eurostar from St Pancras, connecting via Paris’s Gare de l’Est and Stuttgart to Munich. Arriving in Munich in the evening, you can seamlessly hop onto the overnight train to Tuscany. Starting September 10th, the direct Nightjet link from Munich to Florence will be restored. You’ll reach Florence at 6.36am, taking less than 24 hours to journey from London. Alternatively, continue on the Nightjet to Rome, arriving at 9.10am.
This itinerary also opens doors to direct overnight trains to other Italian gems like Venice, Milan, Genoa, and the Cinque Terre coast. While a sleeping car offers ultimate comfort, budget-conscious travelers can opt for a regular seat and relish moonlit glimpses of the Alps.
2. Newcastle to Germany
DFDS’s overnight ship from Tyneside to the Netherlands is a boon for travelers from Northern England and Scotland bound for the continent. From Glasgow, a quick train ride to Newcastle connects you to the ferry terminal at Royal Quays. The overnight ferry journey is a delight, and you’ll disembark in IJmuiden, Netherlands, around 10am the next day.
From there, a simple bus ride to Beverwijk station opens up excellent rail connections to cities across Germany. In roughly 33 hours, you could be savoring the beauty of Munich or Berlin.
3. To Corfu via Padua
Why opt for a mundane flight when you can take an exciting rail and ferry adventure to Corfu from London? Start with an afternoon Eurostar to Brussels, followed by a German ICE train to Cologne. After exploring Cologne, catch the Nightjet to Innsbruck at 10.16pm.
Enjoy breakfast in Innsbruck before continuing on local trains to Padua, with transfers in Brenner and Verona. Spend a night in Padua and hop on the local train to Venice to board the weekly Anek Lines sailing to Corfu. Depart on a Friday afternoon, and by Monday lunchtime, you’ll be stepping onto Corfu’s shores after a train journey, hotel stay, and a night on a ship.
4. To Poland’s Baltic Coast
Explore Poland’s Baltic coast with a budget-friendly return trip from London for just £144. Germany’s €49 Deutschland Ticket offers unlimited travel on local and regional public transport for a month. Avoid high-speed trains, and you’re set for an affordable adventure.
Start your journey with Eurostar’s Any Belgian Station (ABS) ticket from London to Athus in Belgium. From Athus, ride through Luxembourg to enter Germany at Igel in the Moselle valley, where your Deutschland Ticket comes into play. With careful planning, you can roam Germany for a month, enjoying cross-border escapades.
Intriguingly, the Deutschland Ticket extends to select Polish stations, including Świnoujście Centrum on the island of Uznam (Usedom). Whether you’re exploring Germany or heading to Świnoujście, this affordable ticket unlocks a world of possibilities.
Slow travel offers a unique perspective on Europe, allowing you to savor the journey as much as the destination. From the scenic routes of Tuscany to the coastal beauty of Corfu, these affordable and leisurely journeys reveal the hidden gems of the continent. So, step away from the rush and embrace the magic of slow travel on your next European adventure.