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These luxe dining cars make a railway vacation worth it

Want to eat like a king and travel by train? You can do both with some of these luxe railways.

There’s a lot of train talk these days, from railway strikes in the news to new and improved transportation methods amid climate change. But let’s not overlook the nostalgia and beauty that comes train travel, especially when you’re riding in a high-end dining car.

When it comes to planning a vacation, train travel has a lot going for it. One, it’s a slowed-down process wherein you don’t have to do anything but relax. Two, the viewing is often superb, with cars designed strictly for observation and routes that carve through some of the prettiest terrain in the land. And three, the food. That’s right, train food is much improved, rivaling some of the best restaurants that aren’t on wheels.

An image of train travel.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

With such a captive audience, you might as well have good food. That seems to be the logic behind the following train lines, which specialize in Michelin Star-quality food, all while taking you on a memorable journey through majestic terrain. It’s a special kind of dinner theater you just can’t experience in any other format. Just imagine, a sip of local wine or that first bite of local seafood, enjoyed as you stare out an oversized window at the gently-moving landscape. It’s a little bit of time travel and a lot of fun, elevated by food programs that have become increasingly renowned as of late.

Here are a few of the most intriguing luxe railway operations on earth.

Napa Valley Wine Train

This California wine country operation has been running since the mid-19th century. It runs through the famed Napa Valley, hits vineyards along the way, and offers multi-course meals that showcase the bounty of the region. The Napa Valley Wine Train touts beautifully restored cars as well as an in-train chef that makes from-scratch dishes, often utilizing ingredients delivered straight from the farm to the train. On top of the great food and beverage program, there are endless views of the oak-studded hills of the area.

The Presidential Train

This Portuguese train was initially built in 1890 to house actual royalty. The feel is much the same today, and it winds through the Douro, some of the most famed wine country on the planet (not to mention the most scenic). The stunning train was restored in 2010 and has since offered two and three-day journeys, accented by wine and great local food. The train hosts a rotating cast of award-winning chefs and the wine program, as you might imagine, is incredible.

Belmond Andean Explorer

It’s hard to think of a more breathtaking line than one that runs right along the Andes. What’s more, this luxury train features world-class cuisine, with incredible sleeper cars bested only by the dining cars. According to The World Travel Awards, it was South America’s finest option in 2021 and we tend to agree. Travelers get it all, from expertly made Pisco Sours pre-meal to dinners showcasing local proteins and mountain-foraged herbs. The dining cars are gorgeous, reminding of a white tablecloth hotel restaurant you’d expect fixed to the ground.

Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
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