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The best off-season train routes to take after summer ends

Hugo van Vondelen

Product Specialist

Rachel Schnalzer

Senior Writer

This summer, maybe you’re dreaming about swimming in the Adriatic or hiking in a lush Baltic forest. Or maybe you’re thinking about kicking back at cafes across Europe, content with a cappuccino and a good book. 

 

We have some good news: the unique delights of summer in Europe extend long into the off-season. This means you have plenty of time to plan a carefree holiday in September, October or beyond  – often with shorter lines at attractions and lower prices for accommodations than you’d typically find during the heat of summer. 

 

We made a list of our favourite train routes that will allow you to bask in the sun and enjoy a beach walk or two long after summer ends. Just choose your Pass, make any necessary seat reservations, and pack a bottle of sunscreen – the beauty of off-season Europe awaits. 

Aerial shot of Rijeka, Croatia and surrounding forest and sea

Journey to the Adriatic

 

Villa Opicina – Rijeka  

 

Pack your bags: there’s a new international route to try. Since the end of April, a direct, regional train has been operating from Villa Opicina in Italy to Rijeka in Croatia, cutting through the southwestern corner of Slovenia along the way. 

 

The train starts at Villa Opicina, a border city in Italy and runs through Slovenian towns such as Sežana and Divača, known for its caves and karst landscapes. Finish your journey across the border at Rijeka, a picturesque port city on Croatia’s stunning Adriatic Coast.

 

Note: The direct train will run through 30 September 2024; after this date, it's possible to take roughly the same journey with a change in Pivka, Slovenia. 

Mousehole Harbour in Penzance

Chase the sun in Cornwall

Exeter – Penzance  

 

England might not seem like the most obvious place to catch some off-season warmth – but Cornwall is one of the sunniest regions in the United Kingdom, enjoying a mild climate well into the autumn.

 

Beginning in Exeter, travel southwest on a direct train for three hours to Penzance, a chic harbourside town known for its art scene, soft-sand beaches and rugged coastline. Along the way, don’t miss the views of the water from your train seat as you pass by Dawlish, a seaside town just south of Exeter.

Ancient amphitheatre in Lecce, Italy

The quiet side of Italy’s coastline

Bari – Lecce

 

The stretch of Italian coastline from Bari to Lecce may not be as famous as Cinque Terre or Amalfi, but if you look closely, you’ll find plenty of pristine beaches, dramatic cliffsides and ancient towns to explore. A direct regional train takes travellers from waterside Bari to lovely Lecce, known for its Baroque buildings and light stone streets. Stop along your train ride to discover smaller villages and swimming spots.

 

After experiencing Lecce, take time to see Puglia. Even though Puglia’s railway lines are not part of the Pass network, the region’s coasts, rolling farmland and towns are well worth the extra journey.  

Beaches and cliffs in Lagos, Portugal

Explore Portugal’s southern coast

Lagos – Vila Real de Santo António

 

Portugal’s southern coastline is a summer hotspot for travellers across the world. But our favourite time to visit is after August, when crowds disperse but temperatures stay comfortable enough to swim.

 

After enjoying some beach time against the backdrop of Lagos’ dramatic rock formations, swap the sand for the city with a two-hour train ride to Faro. Relax at the city’s waterside cafes and once you’ve had your fill of sightseeing, take the train further east along the coast. Your journey culminates in Vila Real de Santo António, a laidback fishing village ideal for winding down your trip.

The beach at Banyuls Sur Mer, France

Slow down in seaside towns

Perpignan – Girona

 

Many travellers opt for high-speed rail when crossing from France into Spain. But, in doing so, they miss a spectacularly scenic railway line that stretches along the Mediterranean coast and winds through the foothills of the Pyrenees.

 

Begin your trip in Perpignan, an ancient city in southern France with a strong Catalan identity. Then, take the train south, stopping off in lovely, seaside towns such as Collioure, Banyuls Sur Mer and Cerbere. Once you cross the border to Spain, change trains at Portbou and continue on to Girona. Relax among Girona’s medieval architecture and enjoy this jewel of Spain’s Costa Brava.  

Boat next to a grassland on island of Usedom, Germany

Discover a wild Baltic island

Greifswald – Świnoujście

 

Embark on an island adventure when you travel from Greifswald, in Germany, to Świnoujście, in Poland’s far northwestern corner.

 

Begin in Greifswald, a university city with distinctive brick-Gothic buildings and historic harbourside. After a transfer in Züssow, take the train across the island of Usedom located in the Oder Delta, which is home to elk, wolves, seals and many other wild species. Situated on the Baltic coast between Germany and Poland, Usedom – and the delta, in general – is a magical place to hike, bird-watch and spend time admiring the power of nature.  

 

Wrap up your adventure in Świnoujście, which boasts a wide beach, relaxing promenade, and the tallest lighthouse on the Baltic Sea.

Sunset in Cadiz, Spain

An Andalusian adventure  

Seville – Cádiz

 

Wandering through Seville is an experience to be savoured, especially after summer, when temperatures drop to 24 and 25 degrees Celsius. With history around every turn and mouth-watering cuisine, it’s a perfect place to begin an Interrail adventure though southern Spain.

 

From Seville, take the train one hour south to Jerez de la Frontera, a small Andalusian city home to palaces, remarkable gardens and the monumental Alcázar de Jerez. After taking it easy in Jerez de la Frontera, travel by train for 35 minutes to coastal Cádiz. Said to be the oldest city in western Europe, Cádiz is a place to linger and appreciate for as long as you can before your journey takes you home.

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