6 Great Travel Destinations You Can Reach Without Flying

6 Great Travel Destinations You Can Reach Without Flying

With climate change reaching new heights, many travellers are thinking twice about booking flights. And let’s face it, holidaying without the stress of flying has its own appeal. From effortlessly cool Antwerp to foodie-centric San Sebastian, SL contributor Olivia Rawes reveals six great European destinations you can get to by train.

For Baroque Architecture & Boutique Stores: Antwerp 

Cool and compact, Belgium’s second city is perfect city-break material. A maze of lanes knits together its engaging medieval core, a dense concentration of Baroque architecture, excellent museums and beautiful churches. There’s a lively cultural and fashion scene here too: admire the work of Antwerp-born artist Pieter Paul Rubens at the Rubenshuis; check out the fashion exhibits at the ModeMuseum; or stroll the boutique-studded streets. Add in a stop for a Belgian beer and you’ve got the makings of a great trip. 

Journey: Less than 3 hrs from London. Eurostar to Brussels, then change for Antwerp. 

Eat: Graanmarkt 13
Stay: Hotel Indigo Antwerp City Centre

For A Foodie City Break: Lyon

France’s undisputed culinary capital is overflowing with wonderful places to eat, from haute-cuisine showstoppers to traditional ‘bouchons’. In fact, its old town has more restaurants per square mile than anywhere else on earth. Gluttony aside, there’s more to Lyon: wander Vieux-Lyon’s atmospheric streets; take a tour of the Basilica Notre-Dame’s roof for views that stretch out to the Alps; explore the city’s museums; or catch December’s dazzling light festival. 

Journey: Around 5 hrs from London. Eurostar to Lille, then change for Lyon. (In summer, the Eurostar runs direct from London to Lyon.)

Eat: Daniel Et Denise
Stay: Okko Hotel Lyon Lafayette

Graanmarkt 13
Graanmarkt 13
Graanmarkt 13
Graanmarkt 13
The Qvest Hideaway
The Qvest Hideaway

For Culture & Character: Cologne 

What Cologne lacks in looks, it makes up for in historic credentials. Its mish-mash of architectural styles reads like a history book: odd Roman walls; clusters of medieval churches; a rash of postwar eyesores; a postmodern quarter; a world-famous Gothic cathedral. Elsewhere, the city bursts with character. Beer halls buzz year-round, while a forward-thinking arts scene reverberates through the gallery-studded inner city. The locals are known for their fun-loving spirit – February’s carnival is reputedly Germany’s craziest party. 

Journey: Just over 4 hrs from London. Eurostar to Brussels, then change for Cologne.

Eat: Bei Oma Kleinmann
Stay: The Qvest Hideaway

For Unsung Italy: Turin

Northern Italy’s great powerhouse – the birthplace of the mighty Fiat – has long been overlooked by tourists. Elegant Turin is fringed by the Alps and its tree-framed avenues are awash with Baroque palaces and Art Nouveau cafés. It’s a place with a rich heritage, from the cathedral to the Porta Palatine, one of the world’s best-preserved Roman gates. Recently, Turin’s been enlivened by a spirit of newness: since it hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics, a wave of regeneration has fuelled a progressive arts and music scene. A burgeoning food scene, stocked by surrounding Piedmont’s wealth of produce, has swept the city, while industrial spaces have been reborn as cultural hubs – the showstopper is the boldly converted former Fiat factory. 

Journey: Just under 8 hrs from London. Eurostar to Paris, then take the TGV to Turin.

Eat: Tre Galline
Stay: Grand Hotel Sitea

Graanmarkt 13
Graanmarkt 13
The Qvest Hideaway
The Qvest Hideaway
Hotel Indigo
Hotel Indigo

For A Memorable Journey: Inverness

Anyone who’s rolled their eyes at being told, ‘Getting there is half the fun’, should think again. Riding the Caledonian Sleeper is a magical experience: slipping away from London at dusk, settling down for a whisky nightcap in the lounge before bed, then waking up to views of misty Scottish scenery. Your destination? Inverness, the ‘capital of the Highlands’, a bustling, riverside city tucked at the edge of Great Glen. Take in the views from the city’s castle, hunt for the Loch Ness monster, or set off into the Highlands – Scotland’s best road trip, the North Coast 500, is on your doorstep. 

Journey: Just over 11 hrs from London on the Caledonian Sleeper.

Eat: River House Restaurant
Stay: Rocpool Reserve Hotel

For Seafood & Seascapes: San Sebastian

French cuisine lovers flock to Lyon; Spanish food lovers make a beeline for San Sebastian. Here, great food comes in many guises: Michelin-starred restaurants showcase Basque creative flair; seaside cafes pair fresh seafood with local sparkling wine; while tapas bars flaunt delicately sculpted pintxos. This gastronomic heartland is a looker too. Backed by the lush Monte Urgull, San Sebastian sweeps around a sand-fringed bay, its old town an ensemble of Art Nouveau architecture, sculpted parks and elegant buildings reborn as boutique shops and arts spaces. 

Journey: Just over 7 hrs by train from London. Eurostar to Paris, then the TGV to Hendaye, followed by a train to San Sebastian.

Eat: Arzak
Stay: Ibaia Et Arramak

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