The BEST episodes of Great Continental Railway Journeys
Every episode of Great Continental Railway Journeys ever, ranked from best to worst by thousands of votes from fans of the show. The best episodes of Great Continental Railway Journeys!
Michael Portillo travels on the great train routes of Europe, as he retraces the journeys featured in George Bradshaw's 1913 Continental Railway Guide.
#1 - Vienna to Trieste
Season 4 - Episode 2 - Aired 10/23/2015
In Vienna, Michael Portillo encounters a pre-Cold War spy and learns about the concert that caused a riot in 1913. He then travels the Habsburg imperial line across the Semmering Pass, a line blasted through the Alps. In Graz, the former politician ventures underground at the Lurgrotte Caves to find out about a famous rescue operation of the past, then in Slovenia discovers how an earthquake in Ljubljana prompted its citizens to assert their national identity in architecture and art. Arriving in the Italian port of Trieste, Michael savours the imported coffee that fuelled a cafe culture.
#2 - Stockholm to the Arctic Circle
Season 7 - Episode 6 - Aired 9/10/2020
Michael makes a scenic journey from Stockholm to Abisko. Michael celebrates Midsummer in Marielund, learns to decorate a Dala horse in Mora and takes an icy dip in one of the country’s 96,000 lakes.
#3 - Athens to Thessaloniki
Season 4 - Episode 4 - Aired 11/13/2015
Armed with his 1913 Continental Railway Guide, Michael Portillo embarks on a Greek odyssey from Athens's port of Piraeus north to the city of Thessaloniki, captured the year before from the Ottoman Turks, who had ruled much of Greece for 400 years. Exploring the Acropolis and delighting in the tastes of moussaka and baklava, Michael discovers the many influences at play in the creation of modern Greece - from its classical past to the oriental Ottomans and the great European powers of Britain, France and Russia. Along the way, Michael discovers the parlous state of Greek finances at the time of his guidebook. He learns how an aristocratic English poet became a Greek national hero and relives Greek athletic victory at the first modern Olympic games.
#4 - Pisa to Lake Garda
Season 4 - Episode 3 - Aired 10/30/2015
Bradshaw's 1913 Continental Railway Guide in hand, Michael Portillo visits Italy, where he experiences first-hand the nation's need for speed in a state-of-the-art Maserati sports car. Michael discovers how the leaning tower of Pisa was rescued from near collapse. In Carrara, he finds out how the marble used by Michelangelo is still quarried today and is invited to chip away at a contemporary sculpture. In Bologna, he embarks on a doomed search for spaghetti Bolognese until a cookery teacher shows him how to make a much more authentic tagliatelle al ragu. Following in the footsteps of Bradshaw's travellers, Michael explores the cradle of the Renaissance through Edwardian eyes. Heading north to Gargnano, Michael discovers the romantic hideaway of one of Britain's most famous writers, DH Lawrence, whose affair with his professor's wife scandalised his home country. Michael ends his journey in futuristic style with a high speed boat trip across Lake Garda.
#5 - Kiev to Odessa
Season 6 - Episode 1 - Aired 3/8/2018
With his Bradshaw's 1913 Continental Railway Guide in hand, Michael Portillo ventures east to a land which a century ago was part of the Russian Empire and today is the independent state of Ukraine. His rail journey takes him from the grasslands of the Steppe to the shores of the Black Sea. In this borderland where Europe meets Asia, Michael crosses swords with Cossacks, learns the secrets of Ukrainian cuisine and gets down and dirty in a mud spa.
#6 - Orleans to Reims
Season 7 - Episode 2 - Aired 8/5/2020
Beginning in historic Orleans, Michael follows his Bradshaw’s guide to the magnificent stained-glass windows of the Cathedral of Sainte-Croix, which tell the story of Joan of Arc.
#7 - Barcelona to Mallorca
Season 4 - Episode 6 - Aired 11/27/2015
Steered by his 1913 Bradshaw's Guide, Michael Portillo returns to Spain to trace the early 20th-century roots of the Spanish Civil War, which divided his Spanish family and sent his father into exile. He discovers a nation fractured at the time by social tensions and regional loyalties, which today offers a rich diversity of cultures to delight the tourist. Special dispensation to fly to the Balearic island of Mallorca allows Michael to spoil himself rotten with spectacularly scenic rides aboard a sublime 1912 vintage railway and a 1913 tram. On his travels, he is trampled underfoot at the bottom of a Catalan people steeple and learns to make the perfect paella. He pays homage to the genius of Barcelona's most famous architect and meets the man responsible for finishing off Antoni Gaudi's life's work. And he discovers a beautiful art nouveau Palace of Music with an emotional history.
#8 - Salamanca to Canfranc
Season 7 - Episode 1 - Aired 7/29/2020
Michael Portillo sports a modern edition of his Bradshaw’s Continental Handbook, dated 1936. His destination lies close to his heart: the ancient kingdom of Spain and land of his father.
#9 - Berlin to Stuttgart
Season 7 - Episode 3 - Aired 8/19/2020
Michael Portillo embarks on a rail journey through Germany. In a vast stadium, Michael hears how new rail lines were constructed to transport crowds of spectators to the Nazi Olympic Games of 1936.
#10 - Batumi to Baku
Season 6 - Episode 2 - Aired 3/15/2018
#11 - Tangier to Marrakech
Season 5 - Episode 3 - Aired 10/4/2016
Michael Portillo leaves Europe behind to take in the sights, smells and tastes of north Africa as he travels from the Mediterranean port of Tangier to the Berber city of Marrakech. With his 1913 guidebook in hand, he discovers in Tangier how this once proudly independent nation fell under the control of the French as rival European powers scrambled to extend their empires in Africa. At Asilah, Michael lends a hand with the construction of Morocco's new £3 billion high-speed railway line to Casablanca. In Fez, he dodges the donkeys and learns how to make lamb tagine before being scrubbed down in a traditional hammam.
#12 - Rome to Taormina
Season 3 - Episode 2 - Aired 11/12/2014
Steered by his 1913 Bradshaw railway guide, Michael Portillo takes the train down the spine of Italy as he travels from Rome to Sicily. He begins by weaving among the capital city's landmarks on the back of a 1950s Vespa, before boarding the train south to Naples, where he finds out about the first railway to be built in the country, and ventures into the crater of Mount Vesuvius. He takes a detour to the island of Capri, before finishing his journey in the ancient hilltop town of Taormina.
#13 - Prague to Munich
Season 2 - Episode 5 - Aired 11/24/2013
With his 1913 guidebook in hand, Michael Portillo explores the stunning art nouveau architecture of the Czech capital. In a café popular with artists of the time he discovers the dance craze of the day - the tango - and gamely gives it a go. In the spa of kings, Marienbad, now known as Marianske Lazne, Michael samples the sulphurous waters and wallows in peat and mud. At the Skoda factory in Pilsen he investigates how the machine products of peacetime gave way to the manufacture of armaments for war and test drives a state of the art passenger train locomotive made there today. Crossing the border from Bohemia to Bavaria, Michael encounters a fire breathing dragon in Furth-im-Wald and in Nuremberg he rides German railway history - made in Britain. Arriving in Munich, he finds a blue horse created at the time of his guidebook and discovers an early 20th century pioneer who laid the foundations for the city's pre-eminence in science and technology today.
#14 - Tula to St Petersburg
Season 3 - Episode 1 - Aired 11/5/2014
Michael Portillo ventures once more on to the European rail network to retrace journeys featured in George Bradshaw's 1913 publication Continental Guide, beginning by travelling through Russia. He starts in the industrial city of Tula, before visiting Leo Tolstoy's former home of Yasnaya Polyana and learning how the author's life and works were intertwined with the railways. Michael then boards the train that runs from the Caspian Sea to Moscow, where he performs an important role in a dramatic opera at the Bolshoi Theatre, before exploring the beauty and history of St Petersburg and riding on the first railway ever built in Russia.
#15 - Warsaw to Krakow
Season 3 - Episode 3 - Aired 11/19/2014
Michael Portillo uses his 1913 copy of Bradshaw's Continental Railway Guide to explore Poland. He begins in the capital Warsaw, where he takes to the floor to dance to one of Chopin's polonaises with high-school students rehearsing for their leavers' ball, before discovering how the former industrial city of Lodz supplied the vast Russian empire of the early 20th century. He then heads to Poznan and rides one of the few remaining steam-powered commuter trains, visits a factory in Wroclaw that manufactures car bodies for locomotives, and ends his journey in Krakow, where he takes a tour in an iconic vehicle of the communist era.
#16 - Sofia to Istanbul
Season 4 - Episode 1 - Aired 10/16/2015
Armed with his trusty 1913 Bradshaw's Continental Railway Guide, Michael Portillo travels east through the Balkans along the most exotic section of the route taken by the Orient Express. His journey begins in Sofia, capital of Bulgaria, and includes stops in the ancient city of Plovdiv, the region of Rumelia, and former capital of the Ottoman Empire Edirne. Arriving in Istanbul, Michael takes a trip on the Bosphorus - a much-coveted stretch of water - finds out about Turkish delight and travels along the Marmaray metro line, which connects European and Asian Istanbul via a tunnel beneath the Bosphorus.
#17 - The Black Forest to Hannover
Season 4 - Episode 5 - Aired 11/20/2015
Armed with his 1913 Continental Railway Guide, Michael Portillo ventures deep into the Black Forest on a quest to discover the essence of Germany and discovers how Hansel and Gretel helped to unify the nation. A humbling masterclass in carving cuckoo clocks shows him how the nation's reputation for quality and reliability in manufacturing was established from the early 18th century. A romantic stop at the ruined Schloss in Heidelberg follows before Michael gets an insider's guide to share dealing on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. At Goettingen University, Michael discovers two sides of student life at the turn of the 20th century - the duelling fraternities and the groundbreaking scientists who laid the foundation for Germany's world class transport technology today. Braving the force of the Goettingen wind tunnel, Michael investigates the track where model trains are fired at up to 360km per hour.
#18 - London to Monte Carlo
Season 1 - Episode 1 - Aired 11/8/2012
Leaving London behind, armed with his 1913 railway guide, Michael Portillo follows the most popular route of the Edwardian traveller through France. His first stop is Paris, where he absorbs the atmosphere of La Belle Époque, before he travels south to the Cote D'Azur, where he samples the Edwardian highlife and learns why the area attracted the rich and artistic alike. He then ends his journey as he arrives at the gaming tables in glamorous Monte Carlo.
#19 - Amsterdam to Northern France
Season 1 - Episode 5 - Aired 12/6/2012
Michael Portillo uses George Bradshaw's 1913 Continental Railway Guide to explore the dazzling cities of the pre-war Low Countries before tasting the delicacies of Brussels. He then travels to the French sector of the Western Front, where from 1914 the trains carried a new cargo of artillery shells, with the Edwardian tourists of 1913 replaced by soldiers facing the horrors of the trenches. He will end his epic journey in the forest of Compiegne to hear how, after four years of conflict, the Armistice was finally signed in a railway carriage.
#20 - Lyon to Marseille
Season 3 - Episode 6 - Aired 12/10/2014
Michael Portillo follows in the footsteps of Edwardian travellers to trace a route recommended in his Bradshaw's guide from the heart of France to the Mediterranean coast. His journey begins in Lyon, where he learns how the city got its gastronomic reputation, and takes instruction from a leading chef on making an omelette. In Avignon, he samples a glass of the region's famous wine Chateauneuf-du-Pape, before his journey ends at the Mediterranean port of Marseille, where he joins a pilot boat as it leads a supertanker to its berth.
#21 - Haifa to the Negev
Season 3 - Episode 5 - Aired 12/3/2014
Michael Portillo uses his 1913 copy of Bradshaw's Continental Railway Guide to venture beyond Europe as he travels through the Holy Land. He begins in Israel, learning about the Baha'i faith and how it spread to Britain in the Edwardian era, hearing the story of the origins of Tel Aviv, and visiting the Christian, Jewish and Muslim quarters of the capital Jerusalem. Michael then crosses the separation barrier between Jerusalem and the West Bank in the company of his Palestinian guide and meets the embroiderers of the Arab Women's Union in Bethlehem, before finishing his journey in the Negev desert.
#22 - Berlin to the Rhein
Season 1 - Episode 3 - Aired 11/22/2012
Michael begins this journey in Berlin, the capital of Germany, which at the beginning of the 20th century was a powerhouse of science and technology. Led by his 1913 railway guide, he then heads west via the picturesque Harz Mountains to the industrial Ruhr Valley to learn how imperial Germany was war ready. He then travels south along the tourist trail of the castle-studded Rhein river and ends his journey in the Rheingau to taste the wines of its age old vineyards.
#23 - Zermatt to Geneva
Season 5 - Episode 2 - Aired 9/27/2016
Armed with his 1913 railway guide, Michael Portillo travels from the Swiss Alps to the shores of Lake Geneva. From the Swiss Alps to the shores of Lake Geneva caught up in a war zone with the Red Cross and rescued from an avalanche by a St Bernard puppy. Takes to the skies in a vintage bi-plane and tries watchmaking, James Bond style.
#24 - Riga to Tampere
Season 5 - Episode 5 - Aired 10/18/2016
Michael Portillo braves the freezing temperatures of the Baltic Sea and finds peace paddling a canoe on the Lakes of Finland.