Best Interrail routes for food lovers
Wind your way through diverse landscapes on Europe's rail network, stringing together cutting-edge cities, iconic food hubs and serene waterside destinations
Looking for the best places to go Interrailing this summer, or planning the ultimate food trip next year? Embracing train travel is a trend we’ve seen on the rise in recent years. Catching the train is not only more sustainable, but also encourages a slower pace of travel, allowing you to take in breathtaking landscapes and gain an insight into the rural, everyday cultures of the countries you’re visiting. Travel by train through diverse regions to watch scenery gradually changing before your eyes from Scandinavian serenity to elegant Italian estates, lush green eastern European national parks to southern Mediterranean communities.
We’ve highlighted some suggested Interrail routes for food lovers, that you can either embark on one at a time, integrate into your own bespoke itinerary (plan your trip here), or join together for a relaxing gourmet tour of Europe.
Scandinavian adventure: Copenhagen, Gothenburg, Tallinn, Helskini
String together these stylish Scandi destinations, ranging from cutting-edge cities to serene archipelagos.
Coming into Copenhagen train station, you’ll be greeted by Tivoli’s traditional theme park attractions. From there, it’s 15 minutes’ walk west to Vesterbro’s Meatpacking District or a 30-minute mooch to the colourful canal-side buildings of Nyhaven. Hop on a bike, past Noma’s greenhouses, to Refshaleøen island where you’ll find Lille Bakery for umami-rich Danish sausage rolls, fresh-water swimming and global street-food dishes amongst Reffen’s vibrant sea containers.
Hop on a train and cross the famous bridge that connects Denmark to Sweden, and riding up through the west coast’s matchbox fishing villages to Gothenburg. Tour this coastal city’s craft breweries (ales at traditional pub Olstugan Tullen, craft beers fresh from Beerbliotek’s taproom, or a brewery tour and tasting at small-scale Stigbergets Bryggeri). Head out on the ferry to the archipelago for a taste of Styrsö’s car-free island life and cinnamon buns at charming Café Obergska.
A train to Stockholm then ferry ride (discounted for Interrail passholders) over the Baltic Sea takes you to Tallinn, a lesser-frequented Scandinavian city brimming with independent shops and cafés, as well as a thriving New Nordic food scene. Make a bee-line for Nikolay Cafés Russian pies, Salt’s Estonian-Asian fusion dishes and Røst’s cardamom buns and coffee. Or graze your way through Balti Jaam market for Estonian grandmothers’ sauerkraut, Taiwanese bao buns and rye sourdough.
Finish your Scandi stint over the water in Finland’s edgy, design-led capital. Lick Finnish blueberry ice cream beneath the birch trees on the edge of Töölönlahti Bay, a lake-like body of saltwater. Hail the tiny ferry from Helsinki’s southern shore to Skiffer, where party-loving locals tuck into crayfish and dill pizzas while DJs spin the decks into the crisp sea air. Don’t miss out on a Finnish sauna experience at upmarket waterside Loyly for a relaxing steam, exhilarating sea swim and local Napue gin on the sunset deck.
La dolce vita: Milan, Bologna, Florence, Rome
Four of Italy’s most iconic cities are linked by 30-to-90-minute train rides through Tuscan vineyards, hilltop towns and abundant fields.
Start in northern Italy’s slick design capital, Milan. Graze on ossobuco, salads laced with orange, fennel and thyme honey, then scoops of velvety hazelnut gelato between window shopping in the city’s stunning shopping gallery, Vittorio Emanuele II.
Save room for the next destination only an hour’s train ride away. Bologna is lovingly named “La Grassa” (the fat) due to the fact that it’s bursting at the seams with mortadella, tortellini in broth, ragu bolognese and gelato. Olive favourites include salumeria boards at La Prosciutteria Bologna, traditional pasta dishes at Ristorante Cesari, and negronis in the piazza at Agricola e Vitale.
Less than an hour’s train ride south takes you to Tuscany’s food and art gallery hub, Florence. Kick back in the pretty piazzas with plates of antipasti at Osteria Tripperia Il Magazzino, have a traditional lunch at Florentine institution Trattoria Mario and Tuscan wines at Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina.
Finally, feast on food-to-go while discovering Rome’s ancient sights. Nestled in the streets between the Pantheon and Colosseum, leafy outdoor market Mercato Rionale Niccolini’s bounties include buffalo milk ricotta, chargrilled mozzarella and fresh fish. Meander through the streets around Via dei Banchi Vecchi with Supplizio’s original Roman street food, supplì (mozzarella-filled fried rice snacks). Cross the river, via a peak into Vatican City, and take in the breathtaking surroundings of St Peter’s Square before ducking around the corner to Spoon Gelateria for scoops of artisan hazelnut and pistachio gelato.
Lesser known lands: Ljubljana, Vienna, Budapest
Connect central to eastern Europe by rail, stopping at these hidden food hubs.
Ljubljana has it all – chocolate box Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture, a river romantically spanned by pretty bridges, and a position between the Alps and the Adriatic that lends the local cuisine both an excellent range of produce and a real variety of culinary influences. Every Friday, from March to October, Ljubljana’s Pogačar Square comes to life as the city’s Open Kitchen Market. There’s a festival atmosphere beneath the shadows of the green-domed Ljubljana Cathedral, and all manner of vendors, from farms to gourmet restaurants. Sample vibrant pumpkin seed oil, orange wine and linden flower Broken Bones gin, or tuck into dishes from the country’s top restaurants – Gostilna Mihovec, Vander and JB Restaurant.
Ride the train through Slovenia’s lush north east and Austria’s southern wine-making regions to Vienna. Austria’s capital caters to both traditionalists and modernists with sparkling natural wines, chocolate bundt cakes and wild boar burgers there for the taking alongside the city’s famously elegant – and gloriously old-fashioned – cafés and schnitzel restaurants. Seek out trendy Karmelitermarkt, where Fridays and Saturdays see the cobbled square transformed into a farmer’s market and colourful kiosks contrast with the ancient buildings that surround them. Grab breakfast at one of the neighbouring cafés, then shop for flowers, organic veg and Burgenland honey.
Follow the Danube further east into Hungary’s most north-western region studded with Baroque towns and vibrant valleys. Explore the elegant supperclubs of Budapest and fill up on boar with stewed quince, curd cheese dumplings and sweet Tokaji wines. It’s a 40-minute drive to the charming Etyek wine region, where you can taste fine pinot noirs and sauvignon blancs. Or stick to the city and ‘accidentally’ stumble upon the capital’s ruin bars – “pop-ups” in vacant buildings and atmospheric outdoor spaces that have gradually become more officially integrated into the city’s cocktail culture. Most Budapest neighbourhoods have market halls where locals rub shoulders with chefs. Visit three-level Central Market or regenerated Klauzaltér Market for a browse and lunch on goulash, bone marrow on toast and lavish pastries.