Need travel inspiration?
Sometimes, travel can feel very functional and utilitarian. You go to an airport or station, and it has no personality - you’re busy, looking for the fastest way to leave and get to your final destination. However, part of the joy of flight-free travel is the journey itself, and the chance to experience views and places you completely ignore when flying.
That includes stations which set you down right on the doorstep of beautiful views, often next to a river or the sea. While we help you plan trips, you need somewhere to go first - without all the emissions of flying. For some flight-free travel inspiration, save on the CO2 and visit one of these waterside destinations across Europe!
1. Luzern (Switzerland)
Sat snug in the heart of Switzerland, Luzern is a famous Swiss destination. While the whole country is well-connected by train, this city is particularly notable for its large terminus station facing right onto the lake of the same name. Quays right in front of the station have paddle steamers ready to take you on scenic excursions around the lake. An imposing modern theatre on one side, the famous Kapellbrücke on the other.
While the station building itself isn’t the prettiest, it has a convenient series of bus connections around the city, shops in the underpass, and an immediate view of the beautiful lake. Trains to Milan pass through here, so you also have international connections. An ideal part of Switzerland to see without flying - we can get you to Luzern and back if this sounds right for you!
2. Lindau Insel (Germany)
‘Lindau Insel’, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:LindauInsel.jpg. Accessed 06-04-2023, used under CC 2.5 licence.
It's hard to confuse Lindau for anything else - the station crosses from the German ‘mainland’ to an island in Lake Constance. Departing your train, you have a charming old town, the beautiful lake (the Bodensee, in local parlance) and its ferries right at your footsteps.
Lindau has connections to Munich by train, but also (via a nearby interchange on the mainland) trains as far as Berlin and Frankfurt. Best of all, the lake borders on Switzerland and Austria as well. In fact, you could easily walk or cycle to Bregenz if you want something more alpine. Ideal for summer!
3. Venezia Santa Lucia (Italy)
No-one needs much persuading to visit Venice - it's just as beautiful and unique as everyone says. However, it also makes a lot of sense as a destination for flight-free travel. Boats galore, car-free by necessity, and connected to the rest of Italy by local and high-speed rail alike. Suffice to say - if you can get into Italy at all, you can get here without much trouble!
While some trains only stop at Venezia Mestre on the mainland, what concerns us here is the terminus in the city itself: Santa Lucia. After crossing the tranquil waters of the Venice Lagoon on a long causeway, you arrive into the city right on the edge of the Grand Canal itself.
4. Oban (Scotland)
‘Oban, View from Pulpit Hill’, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Oban,_view_from_Pulpit_Hill_-_geograph.org.uk_-_473747.jpg. Accessed 06-04-2023, used under CC 2.0 licence.
Oban is a small town, and the station itself is small - but what matters here is the beautiful setting and wide range of onward connections. You certainly can’t fly here! Oban is one terminus of the West Highland Line, one of the most scenic railway lines anywhere with its start in Glasgow.
The town itself is pretty, but what makes Oban such a good destination for flight-free travel is the station and port. Both are integrated so closely that there is no anxiety at all about changing from Scotrail trains to Calmac ferries. More than that, Oban is perhaps the single most important port for Calmac, with ferries going to several different islands and archipelagos, from nearby Kerrera to distant Barra.
5. Kyle of Lochalsh (Scotland)
‘Kyle of Locahlsh Station, Platforms 1 and 2 approach’, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kyle_of_Lochalsh_station_Platforms_1_%26_2_approach,_Ross_and_Cromarty_-_view_south.jpg. Accessed 06-04-2023, used under CC 4.0 licence.
Sticking to Scotland’s beautiful west coast, you can also find a more remote seaside stop in the small station Kyle of Lochalsh. Once the ferry link to Skye and beyond, the station now lies quietly in the shadow of the Skye Bridge. Trains take over two and a half hours to wind their way here from Inverness - this is a journey for quiet scenery, not urban buzz.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit - Lochalsh is a great stop to include in a tour of Scotland, which needn’t involve flying. If you do take the train here, you can easily pick up the 915, 916, and 917 coaches crossing to Skye. You’ll see a side of Scotland unseen by many Scots, and have more beautiful views than you know what to do with.
6. Portsmouth Harbour (England)
While Portsmouth doesn't necessarily have a big cache among tourists to England, this station helps to make the city worth visiting. While Portsmouth generally is a big port for passenger ferries, the Harbour station sits away from the main ferry port. Instead, the platforms stand on a pier over the water itself, looking out to Gosport across the harbour.
If you take a train to the Harbour station, you find yourself closer to the Spinnaker Tower (a local landmark), the small but charming Old Portsmouth, and small ferries to the Isle of Wight. If you’re travelling to, from, or across the south coast of England, Portsmouth Harbour becomes a convenient and unique place to go. It also has trains to London in one direction, and Bristol/Cardiff in the other - Portsmouth is better connected than you might expect!
7. Amsterdam Centraal (Netherlands)
Did you know Amsterdam is a beautiful city? Ok, that might be a bit basic - but what people don’t always talk about is the beauty of Amsterdam Centraal and its surroundings. The station itself is an enormous edifice - a work of art - and a recent refurb of the plaza in front of the station has really paid off. You have canal tour boats lined up metres from the front doors, OV bike rental, and local trams waiting to carry you to the Rijksmuseum and other attractions.
Amsterdam Centraal is key for flight-free travellers anywhere in north-western europe. As well as connecting you to every corner of the Netherlands, trains here travel to London (Eurostar), Brussels and Paris (Thalys), Austria and Switzerland (Nightjet), Frankfurt and (soon, by European Sleeper) Berlin.
8. Dagebüll (Germany)
The North Frisian islands are a tourist hotspot for a reason - half of Germany seems to head to Sylt every year. However, there are multiple islands to choose from, and best of all for the flight-free tourist, rail is the best way to get to them. This is Dagebüll - the ferry port for access to Föhr, Amrum, and Hooge, three of the smaller Frisian islands.
You get here via a tiny local train that connects to the larger station of Niebüll, where long-distance trains from as far away as Frankfurt and Stuttgart call. The port of Dagebüll itself is actually quite charming, unlike some ferry ports (Dover, I’m looking at you). A sea wall with views of the North Sea, good places to eat… it's a small but enjoyable town, even in the winter when you’ll have the town to yourself - see more on that here!
9. Nynäshamn (Sweden)
‘Nynäshamn Pendeltag’, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nyn%C3%A4shamn_Pendeltag.jpg. Accessed 06-04-2023, used under CC 4.0 licence.
Speaking of ferry ports, here’s an excellent one - Nynäshamn in Sweden. This small town acts as a port for Stockholm - while the capital has excellent boats of its own, this is a great place for flight-free travellers to get familiar with as well. Every 30 minutes, the no.43 train connects you to Stockholm’s central station in just over an hour. Within a few hundred metres of the station, you have ferries to local islands and destinations across the Baltic including Gdansk (Poland) and Ventspils (Latvia).
10. Cais do Sodré (Portugal)
While Cais do Sodré isn’t the largest station in Lisbon, it is right on the waterfront of the Tagus river and incredibly well-connected. Firstly, you have metro and commuter rail connections, including the beaches at Cascais and the Torre de Belem, three ferry routes across the river - oh, and a modern tram line too.
Within 5 minutes’ walk, you have the pretty Pink Street, a picturesque funicular (the Ascensor da Bica), and even the old vintage tram lines: see above for a first-hand view from one of those! Arriving in Lisbon by train, you will probably end up in the Estação do Oriente or Santa Apolónia - but Cais do Sodré is the better waterfront station for this list. Who says you have to fly to enjoy Portugal?