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DISCOVER NORWAY

Five stunning train trips to take in Norway this summer 

Norway is home to some of the world's most picturesque train journeys, and what better time to take them than when the sun is shining and the weather is warm. 

Pictured is a view from the Flåm line.
These are some of the top train trips in Norway. Pictured is a view from the stunning Flåm railway. Photo by Rudolfo Spott on Unsplash

Some of the best Norway has to offer can be seen sitting down from the comfort of train seats. Much of the country’s rail system is draped around stunning scenery, giving passengers close-up views not possible when flying or driving. 

Such is the beauty of the country’s railway lines, it’s no surprise that a number of different routes are featured on lists of the world’s most scenic train journeys. 

With summer on the horizon, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best to take a trip on this summer. 

The Bergen Line

One of the busiest and most popular of Norway’s railway lines, the Bergenbannen acts as a greatest hits of Norway’s landscape. The line which connects Oslo in the east to Bergen in the west makes its way through mountains, valleys, fields, fjords and forests. 

The first leg of the trip from Oslo to Geilo passes through mountain scenery before ascending to Finse and passing along the Hardangerjøkulen glacier. 

There is also plenty of connections to other great train journeys. A popular transfer is to Myrdal station, where you can take the iconic Flåm Line. 

Film buffs and Sci-Fi nerds alike may want to make the pilgrimage to Finsewhich was the filming location for the ice planet of Hoth in Star Wars.

 
 
 
 
 
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Vy is the rail operator which runs trains on the line. You can book tickets for the seven-hour journey here

Word to the wise, tickets for this train can cost a lot if you leave it late- so be sure to book in advance.

The Flåm Line

Famous for the green locomotives which operate on the line, the Flåm Line is the perfect trip for those who like to keep things short and sweet as it is just over an hour long. 

One of the steepest railway lines in the world, around 500,000 passengers take the hour-long train ride from Myrdal to the village of Flåm, located on the interior of the Aurlandsfjord, each year. 

For those with a keener interest in trains, the Flåm Line is also a technical marvel. For starters, there is an elevation change of 866 metres on the journey. Secondly, two locomotives are required to get passengers to their location- one at the front and one at the back. And for those who like to dive into details, each carriage has its own specialised braking system.  

If you prefer nature to the mechanics, there is plenty for you. The journey takes you along mountainsides and passes the Kjosfossen waterfall. The train stops at the waterfall so people can enjoy the views, get some fresh air, and take pictures.

 
 
 
 
 
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Compared to other trains on this less, the interior of the carriages is a lot more retro and a lot less modern, which will add to the charm for many travellers. You can book tickets here

Rauma Line

High peaks, jagged rocks and windswept plateaus are all things the Rauma Line has in abundance. The 114-kilometre-long journey is stunning all year round. The trip will see you cut through the Romsdal valley, speed past the river with which the line shares its name, and cross the impressive Kylling Bridge. 

 
 
 
 
 
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Until recently, this train was more of a hidden gem than the more famous Flåm and Bergen lines. 

This line doesn’t have as many departures as some others on this list, so it’s better to book in advance and plan the trip accordingly. 

Like the Flåmsbana, the journey is brisk at 1 hour and 40 minutes. Tickets are booked with SJ Nord.

The Norland Line

Nearly as impressive in length as it is in scenery, the Nordland Line connects central Norway with Bodø in the north. 

Even though the 11-hour trip will take you to Hell (the town), the journey should be a fantastic experience overall. 

Summer is the best time of year to make the journey as due to the long days and midnight sun, once you cross the Arctic Circle, very little of the landscape will be lost to darkness. 

However, there are only two departures per day, and one of them is a night train. However, the night train may be better in the winter due to the prospect of being able to spy the northern lights. 

The Nordland Line boasts the title of being the only train in Norway to cross in and out of the Arctic Circle.

 

Trains start in the forests and farmland of Trondelag before crossing the Saltfjellet mountain range and meandering along the Arctic coast. 

 The Røros Line

Norway’s most historical line, opening in 1877, connects Hamar in southeast Norway with Støren. The line is easily accessible from both Oslo and Trondheim.

The scenery will feel more rugged and remote than other train lines, but the train will also pass through the forests of Østerdalen, and passengers may be able to spot moose, bears and lynxes. 

History lovers can disembark at the UNESCO-listed mining town of Røros. SJ Nord operates the route. 

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TRAIN TRAVEL

Yes, train travel across Europe is far better than flying – even with kids

Hoping to do his bit for the planet, perhaps save some money and avoid spending any time in airports, The Local's Ben McPartland decided to travel 2,000km with his family across Europe by train - not plane. Here's how he got on on and would he recommend it?

Yes, train travel across Europe is far better than flying - even with kids

Summer 2022 has seen the return of people travelling across Europe en masse whether for holidays or to see family, or both.

But it’s also seen chaos in airports, airline strikes and more questions than ever about whether we should be flying at all as Europe bakes under consecutive heatwaves caused by the climate crisis.

But are there really viable alternatives to travelling 2,000 km across Europe in a short space of time – with young kids?

The predicament

We needed to get from Paris to Portugal, or to be more precise the western edge of the Algarve in southern Portugal, for a week-long family holiday.

We didn’t have that much time to spend travelling there and back so the dilemma was how could we get there, fairly quickly?

“We” in this case being a family of four including two children aged 5 and 7, one fairly easygoing mum and a dad (me) who increasingly comes out in a rash when he goes near an airport.

Normally we’d have flown – as we did when we went to the same region of Portugal in October – but the stories of airport chaos, delays, cancellations, strikes and never-ending queues around Europe at the start of the summer made the prospect of taking the plane far less appealing.

Then throw in the climate crisis and the growing feeling that we, as a family, need to make an effort for the cause.

So the thought of flying, during what forecasters say was one of the hottest Julys on record in Europe and as rivers dried up and wildfires burn, just didn’t feel like an acceptable option – to me anyway – when there are alternatives.

There was the option of driving from France to Portugal, as many French and Portuguese nationals living in France do every summer. But driving nearly 2,000 km there and back for just a week’s holiday with two kids strapped in the back for hours on end would have been asking for trouble – either a breakdown or lots of meltdowns.

So that left taking the train. But would it be viable?  Would something go wrong as my colleague Richard Orange had warned on his own rail trip across Europe with kids this summer?

READ ALSO: What I learned taking the train through Europe with two kids

Planning the route

With the help of some really knowledgeable European rail experts like Jon Worth and information from the excellent The Man in Seat Sixty-One website we looked at the various rail routes through France and Spain to southern Portugal.

One problem was the line from southern Spain to the Algarve no longer runs which meant the best we could do was get to Seville and then hire a car.

At one point the best option looked like a night train (fairly cheap with a whole cabin reserved for the family) down to the Pyrenees (Latour-de-Carol) and then a local train to Barcelona before onwards travel to Portugal.

But in the end we settled on the direct train from Paris to Barcelona, spend the night in the Catalan city before taking the train the next day to Seville and picking up the car.

READ ALSO 6 European cities less than 7 hours from Paris by train

It would be mean Paris to Portugal in two days – or to be precise 7 hours to Barcelona, one night in a hotel, before a five-and-half-hour train journey to Seville and a three-hour car journey. It was the quickest way without flying, as far as we could see.

We were about to book the tickets when friend who was travelling by rail through Europe mentioned the Interrail option.

I did Interrailing as an 18-year- old and it was a great way to spend a month travelling around Europe (and Morocco) but had never thought it could be an option for a quickish trip to Portugal and back.

But Interrail has changed a bit since 1996 and indeed since 1972 when it was first launched for under 21s.

Now it offers passes that can be used for 4, 5 or 7 days a month – perfect for travel to a few destinations in a short space of time.

And, this was the clincher – Interrail passes for under 11s are free if they are with an adult.

Well almost free, because in certain countries like France and Spain you still need to pay for seat reservations for anyone travelling.

But the cost of the passes for two adults, plus seat reservations were cheaper than just booking direct trains and much cheaper than flying (more on costs below).

The high-speed train from Barcelona to Seville. Photo: The Local

The Upsides

Let’s start with not having to wake up at 4am and arrive at the train station three hours before the train leaves just to check in a bag and then spend the next three hours queuing in various lines – bags, passport, security, boarding etc..

We arrived at Gare de Lyon around 30 minutes before the train left and boarded without queuing and the train departed on time.

Compare this with having to get a taxi or the RER train to Charles de Gaulle airport and then still find yourself in Paris three hours later as you queue to board. (I know this is not always the case but this summer the advice was to arrive three hours before your flight to check in bags.)

Plus there was no luggage limits on the train and no having to empty your bags at security because you left an old roll-on deodorant at the bottom of your bag.

Although rail stations in Spain do have airport style x-ray machines to check all luggage, they were very rapid and didn’t result in any long queues.

Add to this comfortable seats with leg room, a bar you can walk to and spend hours watching the beautiful French and Spanish landscape whizz by.

You arrive in the centre of town – in our case Barcelona – so there’s no need to get public transport or taxis to and from out of town airports. 

Spending a night in Barcelona was a great way to break the journey – albeit a bit expensive (see below).

And it all ran pretty much on time. Over five train journeys in four days we had 15 minutes of delay. Spain’s high-speed trains were fantastic.

To sum it up: when flying your holiday only really begins when you arrive at your final destination because these days the day spent travelling is one big headache, but with the train the holiday begins as soon as you leave the station.

It’s just far, far more relaxing.

heading back to Barcelona Sants station after a night in the Catalan capital. Photo: The Local.

The Downsides

But what about the kids, you say?

Yep this can be an issue. Travelling for 7 hours on a train is not easy with two young kids but if you come prepared and can think of 75 different ways to occupy them from drawing and playing cards to I-spy and “count my freckles slowly” then it’s possible the journey will be tantrum free. (Playing hide and seek on a train with 12 carriages isn’t advisable.)

And kids adapt, so the following day’s five and half hour journey from Barcelona to Seville was a breeze because they settled into the pace of life and by that point had worked out the code to get into my mobile phone.

One complaint was how long the TGV train took to get along the southern French coast. Does it really need to stop at Nimes, Montpellier, Beziers, Agde, Sete and Perpignan? Can’t local trains serve these stations and the TGV just head straight to Spain?

Another little gripe was the train food. Whilst buffet cars on SNCF and Renfe trains are great for a coffee or a beer they don’t really offer a selection of healthy meals, so you need to come prepared. We weren’t and spent a lot of money on crap food and drink during the trips.

But if you know this in advance you can bring whatever you like onto the train, with no nonsense about 100ml limits on liquid.

Cost comparison

Working out cost comparisons are hard and anyone looking to do a similar trip will need a calculator at hand. 

It’s hard to do a direct comparison between flying and taking the train because so much depends on what the prices are when you book, the route you want to take and how quickly you want to travel and whether to go first class or standard.

But for us at the time of booking (roughly two months in advance) flights from Paris to Faro were about €1,500 for four people, train tickets booked directly with SNCF and Renfe (not interrail) for four people were around €1,200 (this probably could have been much cheaper further in advance), whilst the Interrail option – 4 day passes plus seat reservations was around €810.

So on the face of it travelling by train, especially using Interrail passes, was cheaper – but then add on the cost of two nights in hotels in central Barcelona and there was no real financial benefit of going by train.

But then it was never all about money – what price on not having to spend three hours at Charles de Gaulle airport?

How easy is it to Interrail?

Interrail proved a great option for us, even though it was only a relatively short trip. It’s more suited to those looking to do multiple journeys through various countries, perhaps at a slower pace. But the kids being free was crucial for us, so other families should definitely explore the option.

The one downside to Interrailing through France and Spain is the requirement to book seat reservations for the high-speed trains.

Whilst this sounds fairly straightforward we couldn’t do it through the Interrail app or website so had to be done with Renfe directly. For most countries you can reserve seats through the Interrail app (more on this below).

With SNCF it required a lengthy phone call because we reserved the seats to make sure there were some available before getting the Interrail passes.

For Paris to Barcelona the reservations cost €34 for standard class seats or €48 for first class.

With Renfe it was more complicated although much cheaper (Around €10 to €12 a seat). We were told on the phone that to reserve seats with Interrail you have to do it either at a Spanish train station or by phone but only if you can pick up and pay for the reservations at a Spanish train station within a certain amount of time.

Neither of these were possible when booking from Paris back in May/June. But the helpful website Man at Seat 61 recommended going via the man behind the AndyBTravels website, who charges a small fee. A few emails were exchanged and our reservations for Barcelona to Seville arrived in the post a few days later. 

Renfe and SNCF could make it easier for Interrail passengers.

The Interrail mobile pass on the the Rail Planner app was very easy to use. It was just a case of adding the days when we were travelling and then adding the specific journeys.

This brought up a QR code for each trip but the ticket controllers were always more concerned about the seat reservations we had on paper.

But all went to plan.

 

Conclusion

Those days spent sitting drinking coffee, orange and beer (in separate cups) starring out of train windows at fields, hills, mountains, villages, beach and train platforms were part of the holiday.

I’d say that if you have a day or two to spare then travelling across Europe by train instead of plane is well worth it – yes, even with two young kids.

They might even thank you for it one day if we all help avert a climate disaster. 

Advice

It’s hard to give advice because each person has different requirements that need to be taken into account – whether number of passengers, time needed for travelling, destinations, cost etc.

But plan ahead and do the research to see what’s possible.

One bit of advice if you need to travel quickly is try keep connections to a minimum or give yourself plenty of time to make them.

My colleague Richard Orange had problems on his trip from Sweden to the UK via Denmark, Germany and Belgium because of delays and missed connections.

Useful links and extra info

You can explore Interrail pass options and prices by visiting the Interrail site here. The site offers plenty of info to help you plan your trip and reserve seats on trains if necessary.

The fantastic Man in Seat 61 guide to train travel across Europe is a must-read for anyone planning a trip. It has pages and pages of useful up to date info and can be viewed here.

It also has loads of information on how to use an Interrail pass and calculations to see whether it’s the best option – if you need help with the maths. The page can be viewed here.

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