Best short breaks by train

Best short breaks by train

If you’re new to the world of flight-free travel, welcome on board. Trips by train, bus and boat are on the up, and that’s what our partnership with Byway is all about. Flight-free holidays come in all shapes and sizes, including longer trips with lots of destinations. Having said that, if you’re short on time but big on adventure – or if you just want to dip your toe into the world of flight-free for now – you can also pick a short flight-free break. Even on a whistlestop trip, travelling by rail lets you see more places as you go and squeeze more scenery than you can imagine into one trip – both out and about and out of your window.  

So, learn to love the journey as well as the destination and get started with one of our shorter breaks. See if any of these suggestions take your fancy… 


San Sebastian short break – 3 days 

San Sebastian is hot on the travel scene right now and totally doable for a short break. For this trip, you only need three days to get to Northern Spain and back, so a weekend away it is. Head to St Pancras to board the Eurostar for Paris and sit back and relax. You change here to ride to Hendaye and then the Euskotren takes you right into San Sebastian. Settle in for dinner at one of the city’s famous pintxos bars and make a plan for tomorrow. This stay is all about exploring the Bay of Biscay, laying out on Playa de la Concha or catching the surf at La Zurriola beach. The seafood is next-level, and the place has become a serious foodie hotspot. Why not take a cooking class? You can always burn it off with a walk through the Penas de Aya National Park on the edge of the Pyrenees. Once you’ve eaten your bodyweight in Basque food, it’s back to London the same way you came – no flights necessary. 

A vegan long weekend – 3 days 

This trip to the Netherlands is another weekend winner. It’s a direct journey by rail from London St Pancras to Rotterdam, so couldn’t be any easier, taking just three and a half hours – you couldn’t even drive to Manchester from London this quickly. Rotterdam is the second-largest city in Holland and home to the largest seaport in Europe. It’s got loads of green spaces and a thriving vegan and veggie food scene. Exploring the city on foot or by bike is the best way to take it all in and you can visit the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, which holds 151,000 works of art in climate-controlled conditions. Just make sure your ticket has a time slot – you can book them online and add a free tour of the world’s first publicly accessible art storage facility when you get there. Three days is the perfect amount of time to tick off this city with a flight-free holiday. 

Beaches and Bordeaux – 5 days 

If you’ve got a bit longer to play with, you can stay a whole four nights and five days in Bordeaux. Taking advantage of train travel from London to Paris, then Paris to Bordeaux on the TGV, the French countryside out your window paints the perfect opening scene to this trip. And compared to the flight, when you factor in getting to the airport early and transfers etc, it takes about the same time. The city of Bordeaux is the world’s largest urban UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the Garonne River flowing through the middle. Cobbled streets open out into squares with churches, restaurants and boutiques but, most importantly, wine bars. This is France, it’s all part of the culture here – there’s even a Wine Museum for those interested in learning as well as tasting. Capuchins Market was made for snacking on pastries and cheese, and Les Bassins des Lumieres art centre is the place to feast your eyes on sound and light shows – it’s the world’s largest digital art centre.  

Highlands and Hogwarts 5-nighter – 5 days 

You might think the UK doesn’t cut it when it comes to treating yourself to a short flight-free holiday. But this trip by train takes you through landscapes that are pure magic – seriously, spot the scenes from Harry Potter. From London Euston, head up to Glasgow for two nights of live music, art adventures and strolls in the stunning Pollok Country Park. The West Highland Line then takes you past Loch Lomond, through the Trossachs National Park and over the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct to the coast. You get to stop in the fishing port of Mallaig – a lovely little town overlooking the Sound of Sleat – before it’s off to Fort William. This is the outdoor capital of Scotland, sat on the shores of Loch Linnhe and with easy access to Ben Nevis and the Highlands. Your last stop is Inverness by bus, riding alongside Loch Ness and the Great Glen. You can kayak on Nessie’s waters here or even spot bottlenose dolphins in the Moray Firth. Get it all in while you can because you can snooze your way back to London, travelling on a direct train.  

Cologne, Berlin and Amsterdam – 7 days 

One week and zero flights can still get you three city breaks, covering two countries – Germany and the Netherlands – in one on this trip. Travel to Cologne via Brussels and stay on the banks of the River Rhine. It’s known for its old town, Kolsch beer and breakfast of champions – Cafecafe is the place to tuck in. You’ve got two nights here so make sure you stop by the city’s famous cathedral, too. Berlin’s got three nights because this capital is simply too good to skip through. If you can line this one up for Christmas, there are over 60 markets to explore. Or, the East Side Gallery has to be seen up close, as do the many other Cold War sites. Visit sections of the old wall and some of Europe’s best museums. You get a night in Amsterdam as well before home time. Pedal its pretty streets and sail the canal network – you can even paddleboard along the waters in summer. The Jordaan area is super chic, with plant-filled streets, cafes and restaurants, and a browse of the Rijksmuseum should definitely be on the cards. Then it’s just a direct Eurostar ride back to London – easy. 

Ready to try flight free? Get started with a short break, in partnership with Byway. 

Looking for more articles? You’ll find them on the Inspire homepage 

Author: Lily Owen
Last updated: 19/02/12024