This article was written before the COVID-19 pandemic and so, sadly, many of these events have been cancelled. Watch this space for exciting events for the rest of the year and into 2021.
Not only does the arrival of 2020 mean a new year, it also carries with it the excitement of a brand new decade. There’s no better time to start making rail resolutions and wanderlust wishes. Here are some of the best European destinations to visit in 2020 by train to get your year off to a great, green start.
Galway, a harbour city on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, has been named European Capital of Culture for 2020. Along with a year-long calendar of arts events celebrating Galway’s rich and varied cultural legacy, the city will also host its annual International Oyster Festival between 25-27 September 2020. This iconic event is the world’s oldest oyster festival and the most famous Irish festival after St. Patrick’s Day. Don’t miss out on Galway’s superb seafood restaurants, traditional pubs, music scene and, of course, its famous Irish welcome.
The Portugese capital Lisbon has been named European Green Capital for 2020 thanks to its impressive efforts in lowering CO2 emissions and making urban sustainability a priority. Choose the night train from Madrid for a great, green journey. Once arrived, all aboard the city’s iconic yellow trams to glide through Lisbon’s cobblestone streets in style. Alternatively, rent a green Gira electric bicycle and explore the city following one of the many dedicated cycle paths. One of the most popular ones is the 7km Tagus River route connecting Cais do Sodré with Belém to see Lisbon’s iconic Torre (tower).
2020 marks the 15th anniversary of the Extremadura Birdwatching Fair in Monfragüe, Spain. This ornithological occasion (28 February – 1 March 2020) draws keen bird-watchers and nature-enthusiasts to the Parque Nacional de Monfragüe for exhibitions, lectures, hiking excursions, and naturally, lots of birdwatching. Aside from taking part in tons of twitching-related fun, the Monfragüe National Park offers visitors the chance to experience a Mediterranean landscape at its most wild, with over 280 species calling the park their home.
Paris is known as the City of Light, but it could very well be known as the City of Museums with over 130 to choose from. And, as of June 2020, Paris will have one more museum to add to its glittery roster with the opening of the private Francois Pinault collection in the Bourse de Commerce building, the city’s old stock exchange. The new museum will house multiple exhibitions a year, featuring primarily contemporary pieces. Ideally located between the Louvre and the Centre Pompidou, this city’s pick and mix of pièces de résistance is hard to resist.
The northern Italian city of Parma, in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, has been named Italian Capital of Culture for 2020. The birthplace of Parma ham and Parmesan, or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, this gastronomic goliath of a city is a food-lover’s paradise. It also boasts a cornucopia of culture, with art and medieval, Renaissance and baroque architecture around practically every corner. Don’t miss the pink marble Battistero in Piazza del Duomo, the masterpieces at the Galleria Nazionale di Parma, and definitely make time for a ham and cheese-based lunch in Piazza Garibaldi, once an ancient Roman forum.
Plymouth, in Devon, was the final UK departure point for the Mayflower when it sailed to the United States in 1620. For the 400th anniversary of the iconic ship’s crossing, Plymouth is hosting a wide array of events, including the Mayflower History Festival 8-31 May 2020, the grand opening of the Mayflower walking trail 1 April 2020 and Mayflower week 14-20 September 2020, during which a special ceremony will be held to mark 16 September, the day the Mayflower set sail.
Rome’s cultural limelight turns to Raphael whose 500th anniversary is celebrated this year. Cities across Europe will dedicate exhibitions in his honour, but Rome in particular, where Raphael died, will host the biggest anniversary show at the Scuderie del Quirinale (provisionally 5 March-14 June 2020). This special Raphael show will be held in collaboration with Florence’s Gallerie degli Uffizi, which will provide the majority of items for the exhibition.
Held every summer since 1920 in Salzburg, and famously depicted in The Sound of Music, the Salzburg Festival (18 July – 30 August 2020) is one of the most important classical music festivals in the world. 2020 marks the festival’s 100th anniversary, making this a cultural highlight not to be missed. Take in panoramic views of the city’s surrounding mountains from Hohensalzburg Fortress and head to Hagenauer Haus to see Mozart’s birthplace. Between sights and symphonies, sample a Salzburger Nockerl, the city’s famous soufflé dessert, sure to be one of your favourite things.
Image credits: Alfama from Miradouro de Santa Luzia (Lisbon) iStock ©hsvrs, Lisbon Portugal tram iStock ©SeanPavonePhoto, Alexandre III bridge in Paris iStock ©manjik, Plymouth lido, shaped like a boat iStock ©MattStansfield, Salzburg iStock ©RudyBalasko
Powered by Froala Editor
The best train station restaurants
We love trains and we love to eat, so we've gone in search of Europe's finest train station restaurants. Please note that this article was originally written by Kate Andrews, founder of Loco2, which went on to be rebranded as Rail Europe. It has been tweaked by our editor to give up to date links in the body of the text. Bon appetit.
Steve McCurry's epic train photography
Inspiring images from Steve McCurry's journeys on the Indian railways