The Algarve Region of Portugal

One of Europe’s best Mediterranean beach vacation hotspots is the Algarve region in southern Portugal.  This region has been very popular with other Europeans, especially with visitors from the Britain, where a Brit pass or Eurail global pass can mean a quick and affordable beach vacation from the colder climate of the UK. While not as popular as Spain, France, Italy or Greece, its gives you smaller crowds and a more laid-back style to enjoy.

Going back thousands of years you would find this place ruled by the Phoenicians and later the Moores, making the Algarve one of the oldest port and trade regions in recorded history.  Algarve translates to “the west” and is one of few areas of Europe that has an Arabic name, showing its early settlers’ roots.

The Algarve region has milder temperatures when compared to its Mediterranean neighbours.  This makes this area perfect for sports and other outdoor activities with its milder summer weather.  You can find a variety of amazing spots for golf or tennis, plus beautiful grottos and cliff-sides to hike.

If you are a seafood fan, the coast of Portugal is your best bet. White tuna is a favorite, with mackerel and swordfish being popular as well.  Piri-piri spicy chicken is also a local favorite and most food dishes feature heavy use of fruit and veggies.  Even though they are not as well-known for their wines as their neighbouring countries, you are sure to enjoy their selections of red wine.

Here are some favorite beach towns and areas you must visit if you get to tour this coast. Praia de Odeceixe is a crescent shaped beach known for being a prime surfing spot. Castro Marim is anice town with three main beaches and also features a beautiful countryside full of wild flowers, orchards and gardens. Albufeira features a vibrant nightlife, shopping and great golf to accompany its beautiful beaches. Go to Tavira for its attractive architecture along with its beaches to match. Faro is your best bet for sun any time of year.  Other than beaches, it showcases this coastal area’s history with amazing museums, cathedrals and architecture. It also features a 30,000-seat football stadium called Estádio Algarve and the Ria Formosa Lagoon, a nature reserve that houses hundreds of flora and fauna. As you can see Portugal has a lot to offer, so plan your train tour today!

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Train Tour of the French Riviera: Marseille

Providing a strong contrast to the rest of the Riviera, Marseille is your train tour stop to escape the big tourist crowds found on the rest of the French Riviera. It is France’s second largest city after Paris and its contact with countries all around the Mediterranean has made it a cultural melting pot. Marseille has a long history to match, and is one of the oldest cities in Europe, dating back to 600 B.C.

Marseille port attracts visitors from all over, with culture, history and art running through the streets and alleys. When you combine the handsome architecture and hundreds of years of heritage that gives Marseille its character, along with its warm climate, you really do have a great place to visit. Remnants of Greek and Roman civilisation can be found within the city’s boundaries and with its history dating back more than 2,600 years, along with modern styles of architecture.

Its cathedrals and forts a big draws here, the first of these is the Old Major cathedral. Made from the pink stone found in the Couronne quarries give it a unique shade that is the theme of the Riviera. The current church dates back to the 12th century, but there have been buildings in this location since the 6th century.

Another place to stop off on any tour of Marseille’s historic sites is the Saint-Jean Fortress, which stands guard at the harbour entrance. One of the attractions of staying in a South France villa is the host of historic buildings that are dotted along the region’s coastline. The original stronghold dates back to the 13th century, while more recent additions include its square tower and navigation light tower, which were constructed in the 15th and 17th century.

The Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde is a 19th century basilica which has been designed on the Romano-Byzantine style. You will find this in the south of Vieux Port and is a major draw for the tourists visiting the region. You’ll see the huge gilded statue of the Virgin standing atop the basilica’s 60 meter high belfry. You must not miss the opportunity of watching the sunset views from here which are unforgettable.

The Museum of Fine Arts in Marseille is regarded as one of the finest museums in France. Built in the left wing of the Palais Longchamp, it displays major works of French, Italian and Flemish schools between the 17th to the 19th centuries.

Marseille is another stop not to be missed if touring the Riviera by Eurail pass.  So come here to absorb some culture and history with your sun, while avoiding the tourist crowds of Nice.

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Eurail Tour of the Med: Greece

For my Eurail train tour of the Mediterranean coast I’m looking at the Greek Islands.  These islands are home to a wealth of ancient history, architecture and culture, but the reason I’m here is to fill you in on where you can enjoy all the joys of the Mediterranean.  Let me give you a quick run-down on a few top islands to get your fill of surf and sand. With your Eurail pass, you are entitled to a free fast-ferry ride from Bari, Italy to the popular island of Corfu, giving you a chance to enjoy the open seas of the Med, a nice change from all the train stops.

Corfu- First stop thanks to your train tour is the island of Corfu, where there is something to enjoy for everyone.  For me, the beaches are my priority.  Glyfada beach is a beauty with its turquoise waters.  Agio Giordos and Agio Georgios are worth checking out for a day trip, and were the location where the movie “Blue Lagoon” was filmed.  Corfu, due to its location near the Ionian Sea, experiences cooler summers if you can’t handle the heat of its island neighbours.

Mykonos- This island it the most famous party island in Greece that rivals the legendary Ibiza.   Psarou beach is known to attract celebrities and Elia beach is a big one, known for its water sports. Paradise, Lia and Agios Stefanos are a few other popular beaches, but there are dozens that are all close by so you can’t go wrong.  The Greek government has also declared this island museum for its historical and cultural significance (and maybe for the parties).

Santorini- When on Santorini Island you will gravitate towards Kamari beach.  While it is a pebble beach, the reason for its popularity is all the bars, restaurants and cafes to enjoy.  This island hosts many white sands beaches too, so don’t worry.  The most famous beach it the Red Beach, which has actually red sand formed by a volcanic eruption.  While here you can also hike around the scenic beauty of the volcanic Calder Cliffs and enjoy the sunset.

Hope these tips get you excited for this stop on your Eurail tour, and remember, this is just a sample of all the amazing islands that Greece has to offer.

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Cities of Spain by Eurail: Zaragoza

Zargoda is located in between Madrid and Barcelona. It features landscapes ranging from a desert to mountains, dense forests to flowing meadows making it perfect for touring by train. If you plan on touring outside of Spain check out the Eurail flexi pass.

You can start at the city hall and the Cathedral of San Salvador which are both architectural delights. This cathedral was actually built over an old mosque. In some places you will be able to see the partially preserved in the 11th century north wall of the Parroquieta. The Romanesque apses in the church from the 12th century while on the inside you will see the imposing hallenkirche is from the 15th to 16th centuries. Finally you should admire the Baroque tower. Not too far from this cathedral you will be able to see the famous Museum of Tapestries.

The Moorish Palace of Aljaferia is the most important Moorish building to be found in the region. IT was made famous by Giuseppe Verdi’s famous opera “The Troubadour”. Today you will find that the Aragonese parliament currently uses this castle for its many meetings.

Zaragoza museum of Fine Arts houses many interesting exhibits. These will include paintings by a number of early Aragonese artists as well as 15th century artists. You will be able to view works of art by painters like El Greco, Goya and Ribera. Another museum which will get your attention is that of the Camon Aznar Museum.

The Canal Imperial de Aragon is popular for its vast vegetation in its entire stretch of about 100km.  This has made it a popular spot for resorts. In fact this canal has made Zaragoza a wealthy city and tourism has made it wealthier. This canal is believed to have been built in the 18th century only minor improvements since.

The River Ebro is an integral part of the beautiful scenery of Zaragoza. It is traversed by 5 bridges and there are many recreational facilities through its length. There are also boats available for tourists as well.

Zargoza also features some amusement parks which is great if you are travelling with children. The park has enough amusement opportunities for children, adults and for the old. There are rides like horse riding and cycling. There is a roller coaster, water sports, swimming pools and theme park. There are also nice restaurants here so can still taste the fine cuisine and skip the average hot dog.  So if you find yourself on a Eurail train tour though Spain, consider the one-of-a-kind city of Zaragoza.

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Italian Cities by Eurail Pass: Milan

Milan is the second largest city and the financial center of Italy. While much of this amazing city was destroyed by bombs in WWII, it still survives with some amazing historic architecture.  Today, Milan stands as the symbol of modern Italy. The truly cosmopolitan experience is what sets Milan apart from the more traditional cities of Italy, with your Eurail pass I defiantly recommend a trip up north to visit.

Milan has a few large parks to stroll through or take a break from the busy life of the city. Two of the best ones are Parco Sempione and the Giardini Pubblici , both surround the old town center of Milan.

Milan’s Cathedral is the largest of its kind in the world. Construction started in 1386 but took a staggering 500 years to finish. 135 spires and 3200 statues adorn the cathedral roof and you can take an elevator to the rooftop for a magnificent view of the city below.  You can even take the stairs if you feel up to the exercise! It rests in the heart of Milan’s old town.

Basilica Sant’ Ambrogio is an eleventh century church, with Sant’ Ambrogio, Milan’s patron resting in a crypt which you can visit. The church is a prime example of Romanesque architecture and is home to many interesting relics, carvings, and mosaics.

La Scala is one of Italy’s historic opera houses and first opened in 1778 and has been the stage for countless . Attending an opera in La Scala is the dream of all opera fan. La Scala’s museum has a collection of musical instruments and portraits of musicians and you can view the auditorium from boxes and the backstage area.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was built in 1867 is a huge glass-roofed shopping gallery lined with classy shops, bars, and restaurants and fantastic mosaics portraying the city. The gallery is built in a cross-shape and links the squares of the cathedral and La Scala.

Sforzesco castle is near the center of inside are a few museums but even if you don’t want to go into a museum, the castle is a good place to wander around and the courtyard to relax and take it all in. The art museum houses Michelangelo’s last sculpture, the Rondanini Pietà. There’s also the Museum of Ancient Art, a collection of musical instruments, and the Egyptian and prehistoric sections too.

The Brera Picture Gallery is Milan’s best art museum with over 600 works from the 14th through the 20th centuries. It features top artists such as Raphael, Piero della Francesca, and Bellini. The gallery was started in the 19th century and is housed in a 13th century convent.

Santa Maria della Grazie is a 15th century convent is the home of Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous “the Last Supper”. Although the building was bombed in 1943, it miraculously survived.

Fashion is an integral part of modern Milan and its fashion designers are world renowned, so read on if you want to learn where to shop. If you want to check out some top of the line fashion, start at the Golden Quadrangle. Corso Buenos Aires has less expensive shops and chain stores.  Of course, if you don’t have the budget, remember that window shopping can be a lot of fun too!

Milan is the hub of Northern Italy, so mark it off on your Eurail map to start your exploration of upper Italy!

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Eurail Sleeper Car

How many if you were aware that you can get a good rest on the train in Europe? The Eurail network does consist of many trains in which you can get a nice, comfy bed to sleep in. The passes do cost more, and I highly recommend them if you’re traveling with children, or senior citizens.

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Eurail Train Map

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