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2 New Trains Launching This Summer Will Connect These 6 European Destinations

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Call it a direct effect of the climate urgency or simply nostalgia for the 20th century, but train travel has definitely made a triumphant comeback in Europe.

There seems to be a new, exciting cross-border rail service being announced every month now.

Aerial View Of Ljubljana Old Town, Slovenia, Central Europe

Following the new sleeper connecting as many as 7 historic cities and the new budget route linking Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland, an additional two trains are launching between six other European destinations.

Just in time for summer, you can now travel between 6 cities in Austria and Slovenia, and Italy and Croatia without resorting to one-stop flights or annoyingly slow Flixbuses:


A woman waiting on a train station

Austria and Slovenia are launching not one, but two passenger services connecting five of their key destinations: now, you can travel from Graz, the second largest city in Austria, to Maribor and Ljubljana in Slovenia, as well as from Villach, in Austria, to Ljubljana.

A collaborative project between Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) and Slovenian Railways, the new train routes will provide ‘better and more frequent' connections and help travelers commute more seamlessly between the two neighboring Central European nations.

Women and the blue suitcase are going up the train ladder.

The Graz-Ljubljana service is scheduled to run six times daily, calling at the Slovenian towns of Maribor and Pragersko.

From start to finish, the journey takes 3h17 and tickets are selling for as cheap as $15.26 one-way on Rail Europe.

Traveling from Ljubljana in Slovenia to Villach, a secondary destination in Austria often overlooked by tourists, is a two-hour direct train ride.

Second Class tickets cost $10.35 when booked some days in advance.

A passenger on the GoldenPass Express train takes in the scenery of Switzerland

These trains are already up and running for summer, and according to Kurt Bauer, Head of Long-distance Passenger Services & New Rail Business at ÖBB, the goal is to have hourly service between Graz and Maribor, and two-hourly trains between Villach and Ljubljana ‘within the next three years‘.

In Austria

Why Visit Graz?
UNESCO World Heritage Altstadt Of Graz, Austria, Central Europe

Despite not being as popular as Vienna or Hallstatt, Graz is one of Austria's most relevant cities.

It is the second-largest conurbation in the country, meaning there's no shortage of sightseeing spots, and its historic center is among the best-preserved in the entire continent.

Called ‘Altstadt', it is a UNESCO-listed hilly maze of winding streets lined by Baroque buildings, all leading up to Schlossberg, a fortress and verdant park perched on a hill overlooking the city.

Not only is it incredibly picturesque, but it is also entirely walkable.

Aerial View Of Rathausplatz In Graz, Austria, Central Europe

You can see most, if not all, of Graz in one day on foot, and though we'd definitely encourage you to stay longer to truly take in the sights and savor the local gastronomy, it can easily be added to your itinerary as a stopover on the way from Austria to Slovenia.

Why Visit Villach?
Landskron Castle Near Villach, Austria, Central Europe

Villach is even more compact and less touristy than Graz, as it's fairly remote and difficult to visit as a day trip from any of the larger Austrian cities—it sits near the Italian and Slovenian borders—yet it's beautiful all the same and highly worth the detour.

Dating back to Ancient Roman times, it straddles the banks of the alpine Drava River, which extends from Austria into Slovenia, and its pointy church spires, colorful Old Town, and nearby imposing Landskron Castle all have majestic snow-capped peaks as a backdrop.

Colorful Old Town Of Villach In Austria, Central Europe

Among Austrians, Villach is famous as a wellness destination, mainly due to the famous KärntenTherme Warmbad-Villach, a thermal bath and sauna complex in the city's outskirts costing an affordable $18 to book for the day.

In Slovenia

Why Not Visit Pragersko?

Pragersko is more of a transitory stop between Graz and Maribor than, you know, a destination: with only a thousand or so residents, it's not like there's an awful lot to see in the area other than, well, a parish church and modern developments.

Why Visit Maribor?
Old Town Maribor, Slovenia, Central Europe

The second stop on the Graz-Ljubljana line, Maribor, is nestled in the wine region of Slovenia, further down the Drava River from Villach.

It's easily one of Europe's best-kept secrets, which very few foreign tourists (other than Austrians, maybe) have discovered.

Its Glavni Trg (Old Town square) is dominated by a Renaissance Town Hall dating back to 1515, long before North America was even settled by the English, and the main landmark in town, Maribor Castle, is a stately Baroque mansion boasting an impressive collection of regional artifacts.

Riverfront In Maribor, Slovenia, Central Europe

Other than strolling the scenic riverfront, tourists can visit local museums to learn more about Maribor's fascinating History and sample Slovenian cuisine across several local-owned cafes (our personal favorite is štruklji, best described as rolled dumplings filled with cheese).

Why Visit Ljubljana?
ljubljana old town in slovenia

I mean, look at this skyline: isn't it the stuff of fairy tales, downright gorgeous, and just makes you want to book the next train out?

Ljubljana is arguably one of the prettiest capitals in Europe. Its very low rates of crime and pickpocketing and its perfect walkability make us love it even more.

It is cut through by the meandering Ljubljanica River, and the postcard-ready, cafe-lined riverfront, the ornate bridges, and the numerous cobbled lanes reaching hidden courtyards will only make you wish you had allotted more time to explore the Slovenian capital in depth.

Ljubljana, Capital Of Slovenia, Central Europe

If you're here on a short visit, the main points of interest are Ljubljana Castle—you can't miss it, it's the one huge medieval fortification on a hill in the city—Dragon Bridge, guarded by menacing-looking winged reptiles, its companion Triple Bridge, the UNESCO-inscribed Central Market and Tivoli Park.

Wait, we're not done yet.

Remember Italy and Croatia also have a surprise up their sleeve?

Italy-Croatia (via Slovenia)

Woman listening to music on the train

The Adriatic siblings are finally launching a long-awaited train service between Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the northeasternmost region of Italy, to Istria, a Croatian peninsula widely known for its Italian origins and rich Roman heritage.

Operated by Slovenian Railways again, this time in collaboration with Croatian Railways, the service was inaugurated between Villa Opicina, in the Italian metropolitan zone of Trieste, and the Istrian city of Rijeka (alternatively known as Fiume) in Croatia on April 24.

Trieste, Italy

Prior to the introduction of this train, tourists traveling between Trieste and Rijeka would normally use buses as the least complicated mode of transport, requiring no intermediate stops.

However, buses do not run as frequently, and there can be long delays, especially when there are spot border checks.

The new Stadler FLIRT trains deployed on this route have a low-floor design that makes it easier for people with limited mobility to board.

They're also equipped with spacious toilets, free WiFi, charging stations, panoramic windows, and air conditioning.

Young Woman In A Train Station In Europe, Unspecified Location

The daily service covers the distance from Friuli-Venezia Giulia to Rijeka in roughly two hours, departing at 7:50 a.m. and arriving at 9:54 a.m. while returning trains leave Rijeka at 6:25 p.m., arriving back in Villa Opicina at 8:40 p.m.

The train stops at Sežana, Divača, and Pivka, in Slovenia, before making a U-turn south and heading towards Bistrica, the last Slovenian town before it reaches Šapjane and Opatija Matulji in Croatia, coming to a final halt in coastal Rijeka at last.

A Beautiful Beach Bounded By The Crystal Clear Waters Of The Adriatic Sea In Hvar Island, An Island Off Mainland Dalmatia, Croatia, Southern Europe

This route will remain in operation until September 30 at the earliest, and tickets can be purchased directly at train stations, with one-way tickets costing only $8.55.

It's worth noting that the trains do not depart from Trieste, but Villa Opicina instead, a small municipality near the Slovene border.

There are buses leaving from the city center of Trieste (Piazza Oberdan) to Villa Opicina multiple times per hour, taking only half an hour to get there.

Why Visit Trieste?
Grand Canal In Trieste, Region Of Friuli Venezia Giulia, Northeastern Italy, Europe

Trieste is a lesser-known Italian city serving as the capital of the largely-unexplored Friuli-Venezia Giulia, which made headlines in 2022 for offering to pay tourists to visit as so very few were.

It's famous for its lively Adriatic port, large squares flanked by palatial structures and old churches.

Noteworthy landmarks are centered around the centuries-old historic core and old marina, including Unity of Italy Square, Trieste Cathedral, built as early as 1320, the local Serbian Orthodox Church, and the Castle of San Giusto, a medieval fortification sitting on elevated grounds.

Historic Castle Near Trieste, Gulf Of Trieste, Adriatic Coast Of Italy, Southern Europe

Due to its proximity to Slovenia and Austria, it's distinctly Central European in character.

Its cityscape is characterized by Habsburg buildings and is multicultural.

Don't be surprised if you hear some Slovenian being spoken or if Slavic-influenced food is served in restaurants.

Why Visit Rijeka?
Aerial View Of Rijeka And Trsat Fortress In Istria, Croatia, Adriatic Coast Of Southern Europe

If Triste is known as the most Slavic city in Italy, Rijeka (or Fiume) could easily be its most-Italian-city-in-Croatia counterpart.

Like all ancient cities of the Adriatic Coast, it can be traced back to the Roman period, and it remained staunchly Italian in character well into the 20th century.

Rijeka is part of Croatia now, but the narrow pastel-toned buildings, a patisserie with different flavors of calzoni on display, and a host of ancient monuments that have survived the brunt of the Yugoslav years are living proof the city remains unequivocally Italian in character.

Old Town Rijeka Or Fiume, A Historic Port City In The Croatian Adriatic Coast, Istria Peninsula, Croatia, Southern Europe

Besides its cultural mishmash, the once-disputed city is equally gateway to the wider Istria, a region of outstanding natural beauty full of unspoiled Adriatic beaches, where waters are of the shiniest blue, and Roman-built towns like Pula, home to a large amphitheater, and the Venetian-era Rovinj.

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Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

Nan Crumlish

Friday 3rd of May 2024

Lovely to read of these new journeys. Don't be surprised if you see the Crumlishes and the Munsies sitting back enjoying the European views on enchanting trains.