Just like last year, Italian cities top the list, with France close behind. There are plenty of reasons: Food, wine, and updated train stations that make getting from beautiful here to magnificent there easier and more pleasant than ever.
Revel in Renaissance masterpieces at the Uffizi, weep at David’s perfectly sculpted feet, and dissect the details of Ghiberti’s Doors of Paradise before tracking down the leaning tower and the Field of Miracles. The Tower is now open late in summer, allowing you to survey the landscape under the Tuscan moon.
Here’s the rest of the top ten. We hope it inspires you to see some old world favorites, plus discover new gems that are accessible by train.
Traveling between these two fashion capitals by train is like a catwalk in the park. In Milan, Pinacoteca Ambrosiana is hosting an incredible exhibit – 22 pages from Leonardo DaVinci’s notebook the Codex Atlanticus. Each page is in its own glass case and is accompanied by an audio guide detailing the brilliance.
From the City of Light, the capital of Alsace is less than 2.5 hours by train. Home to the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, the city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Strasbourg is the 2nd largest rail station in France outside of Paris – making it easy to connect to smaller, charming towns and villages.
The third largest metropolitan area in France, Marseilles is three hours by train from Paris, but seemingly a world away. Nestled right on the Mediterranean, it’s been a hub for artists and more recently, immigrants. Its rich, colorful atmosphere provides a stark contrast to the elegance of Paris.
Just 50 minutes by train from Nice, Ventimiglia, Italy on the Ligurian coast is famed for its annual “Battle of the Flowers,” This colorful, ancient parade features locals and travelers throwing fragrant petals a plenty. Visit the chic beaches of the Cote d’Azur before heading to the charming, Italian seaside.
Float your boat in Venice, where the ferry gondola is back. Shuttling passengers across the Grand Canal between Giudecca Island and the new Punta della Dogana museum, it’s a more charming alternative to the vaporetto. Travelers are increasingly taking the train from Venice to Shakespearean Verona to play Montague and Capulet.
The longest journey on our list at just over six hours is a testament to the ease of rail travel. Or the ease of not driving after imbibing on beer during Oktoberfest. Bavarian Munich is more than pilsner – there are fairy tale castles, magical Christmas markets, and a real glockenspiel. In a quarter of a day you can be in Paris. We’ve sat on the New Jersey Turnpike for longer just to get to the shore.
Paris is plenty magnifique on its own. But when you’re just 40 minutes away from the Champagne capital thanks to the high-speed TGV, it seems silly not to go. Which is why Paris to Reims is on this list. All the famed brands are here complete with tasting rooms. Visit the legendary crayères (caves) to learn about the making of this wine of kings before heading back to Paris feeling bubbly.
The compactness of Western Europe’s capitals makes it easy to shuttle back and forth – even in a day. This trip takes just 90 minutes. Brussels is the capital of the European Union, and an unheralded beauty. Paris gets all the attention, but one look at Brussels’ Grand Place and you may need to sit down. Luckily you can be revived with a piece of Belgian chocolate.
10. Milan to Venice
Go from couture to the Grand Canal in just over two hours. Both cities are fashioned from greatness. Come for the day or linger in love. Ethereal dresses meets masquerade masks. The Last Supper is washed down with a Bellini from Harry’s Bar. La Scala echoes arias and pigeons sing in St. Mark’s Square. This is Italy by train – art, music, La Dolce Vita.