Great Continental Railway Journeys

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Great Continental Railway Journeys
Title screen
GenreTravel documentary
Presented byMichael Portillo
Composer(s)Jon Wygens
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series6
No. of episodes31 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)John Comerford
  • Michelle Heeley (series 1)
  • Alison Kreps
Running time60 minutes
Production company(s)Boundless
Original network
Picture format1080i
Original release8 November 2012 –
Related shows
External links

Great Continental Railway Journeys is a British television documentary series presented by Michael Portillo.[1] It sees Portillo travel on the railway networks of continental Europe, referring to his 1913 copy of Bradshaw's Continental Railway Guide, as he describes how the various destinations have changed since Edwardian times. The first series was originally broadcast on BBC Two in 2012, and the sixth series aired in 2018.

Series overview[edit]

SeriesEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
158 November 2012 (2012-11-08)6 December 2012 (2012-12-06)
2627 October 2013 (2013-10-27)1 December 2013 (2013-12-01)
365 November 2014 (2014-11-05)10 December 2014 (2014-12-10)
4616 October 2015 (2015-10-16)27 November 2015 (2015-11-27)
5620 September 2016 (2016-09-20)25 October 2016 (2016-10-25)
628 March 2018 (2018-03-08)15 March 2018 (2018-03-15)


Series 1 (2012)[edit]

The first series was originally broadcast on BBC Two in 2012. Portillo made five separate journeys across France, Germany, the Low Countries, Switzerland, and the countries whose land made up the former Austro-Hungarian Empire.

# Title Original air date
1"London to Monte Carlo"8 November 2012 (2012-11-08)
Paris, the Belle Époque, the Cote D'Azur and Monte Carlo.
2"Hungary to Austria"15 November 2012 (2012-11-15)
Austria-Hungary, Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna, Salzburg, Salzkammergut and Lehár Villa at Bad Ischl.
3"Berlin to the Rhine"22 November 2012 (2012-11-22)
Berlin, the Harz Mountains, the Ruhr Valley, the river Rhine, and the vineyards of Rheingau.
4"Switzerland"29 November 2012 (2012-11-29)
Basel, Zurich, the Alps, Lake Lucerne, and Europe's highest railway station at the top of Jungfraujoch.
5"Amsterdam to Northern France"6 December 2012 (2012-12-06)
The pre-war Low Countries, Brussels, the French sector of the Western Front, the forest of Compiegne, and the signing of the Armistice.

Series 2 (2013)[edit]

Production of a second series included filming in Spain and Gibraltar in May and June 2013, following the RondaAlgeciras railway line, built in the 1890s by British interests under the Algeciras Gibraltar Railway Company, for the benefit of British officers stationed in Gibraltar wanting to travel to Spain and the rest of Europe.[2] To avoid offending Spanish sensitivities, the line was built concluding in Algeciras, a town in Spain on the opposite side of the Bay of Gibraltar, rather than at the Gibraltar border. Despite it having no direct connection to the European railway network, a chapter was devoted to Gibraltar in the 1913 guidebook.[3]

# Title Original air date
1"Madrid to Gibraltar"27 October 2013 (2013-10-27)
The assassination attempt at the royal wedding of the British princess Victoria Eugenie and King Alfonso XIII in 1906, Cordoba, the feria, Andalusia, Seville, the Royal Tobacco Factory, Jerez, Winston Churchill's diplomatic mission to Algeciras on Spain's Costa del Sol, and the Rock of Gibraltar.
2"Turin to Venice"3 November 2013 (2013-11-03)
The Italian Job, Italian cars, fashion in Milan, Lake Como, Verona, the 'House of the Capulets', and the Venice Biennale art exhibition.
3"Dresden to Kiel"10 November 2013 (2013-11-10)
Wagner, Leipzig, Braunschweig, beer, Hamburg, the model railway at Miniatur Wunderland, the rivalry between Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany and his uncle King Edward VII at the Kiel Week yacht races, and how British yachtsmen spied on the German navy.
4"Copenhagen to Oslo"17 November 2013 (2013-11-17)
One of the world's oldest roller-coasters in Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens, the Øresund Bridge linking Denmark to Sweden, Vladimir Lenin, Lund, a smörgåsbord, a Highland Fling in Gothenburg, the Volvo, and Norway's heritage of plays, paintings and polar exploration.
5"Prague to Munich"24 November 2013 (2013-11-24)
Art Nouveau architecture of the Czech capital, the tango, Mariánské Lázně ('the spa of the kings'), the Skoda factory in Plzeň, Bavaria, a fire-breathing dragon in Furth im Wald, Nuremberg, science and technology.
6"Bordeaux to Bilbao"1 December 2013 (2013-12-01)
The Atlantic coast of France and Spain, Bordeaux, claret, trams, Biarritz, San Sebastián and the Basque Country.

Series 3 (2014)[edit]

The third series had six journeys, one of which saw Portillo travel on railway networks in modern-day Israel.

# Title Original air date
1"Tula to Saint Petersburg"5 November 2014 (2014-11-05)
A Russian Orthodox choir, the country estate of Yasnaya Polyana (where Tolstoy wrote his masterpieces, Caspian Sea, Moscow, how to make pelmeni, Belorussky railway terminal in Moscow, the Romanov royal family, the Bolshoi Theatre, the Sanduny Baths, the high-speed Sapsan to St Petersburg, the Grand Hotel Europe, St Petersburg, the Nevsky Prospect, the Winter Palace, the Hermitage Museum, the first railway ever built in Russia, the village of Tsarskoye Selo and the Russian Revolution.
2"Rome to Taormina"12 November 2014 (2014-11-12)
The Vespa, the Spanish Steps, Naples, Portici, Mount Vesuvius, pizza, the island of Capri, Reggio Calabria, Messina, the ancient hilltop town of Taormina, and Mount Etna.
3"Warsaw to Krakow"19 November 2014 (2014-11-19)
The planned destruction of Warsaw during the Second World War, Poland's national icon Frederic Chopin, the polonaise dance; Łódź - Poland's film industry; Poznań - the last steam-powered commuter train at Wolsztyn; Wrocław - Market Square, Wrocław's dwarfs, the National Rail Carriage Factory; Kraków - milk bar and the Trabant car.
4"La Coruña to Lisbon"26 November 2014 (2014-11-26)
Galicia, John Moore (British Army officer), the Celtic roots of the Galician people, bagpipes, the pilgrims' trail to Santiago de Compostela, the West Galician Railway, a sardine cannery, fishing, São Bento railway station in Porto, the birth of Britain's long alliance with the Portuguese, a glass of 1953 port, the Factory House, the Douro line, Douro Valley, Coimbra, the Fado, a high-speed train to Lisbon, the Santa Justa Lift, the harbour at Belém, Portugal's national sweetmeat, the Palace Square and the Portuguese royal family.
5"Haifa to the Negev"3 December 2014 (2014-12-03)
The Holy Land of Israel, the Shrine of the Báb, Mount Carmel, the Hejaz Railway, Tel Aviv, the roots of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, Jerusalem, the Jaffa to Jerusalem railway, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock, the Al Aqsa Mosque, the separation barrier between Jerusalem and the West Bank, Bethlehem, the Arab Women's Union, the Dead Sea, Beersheba, the London-based Palestine Exploration Fund, the Negev Desert and Lawrence of Arabia.
6"Lyon to Marseille"10 December 2014 (2014-12-10)
The Mediterranean coast, Meres Lyonnaises, the omelette, the Palais de la Bourse, the assassination of Marie François Sadi Carnot, tandem cycling, the Tour de France, light aircraft, Avignon, the lavender fields of Provence, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Arles, the mistral and supertankers.

Series 4 (2015)[edit]

The fourth series aired in 2015. It took Portillo to Bulgaria, Turkey, Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Greece, Germany, and Spain.

# Title Original air date
1"Sofia to Istanbul"16 October 2015 (2015-10-16)
The Balkans, the Orient Express, the ancient city of Plovdiv, the region of Rumelia, the former capital of the Ottoman Empire (Edirne), the Bosphorus, Turkish delight, and the Marmaray metro line underneath the Bosphorus.
2"Vienna to Trieste"23 October 2015 (2015-10-23)
A pre-Cold War spy, the 'scandal concert' that caused a riot in 1913, the Habsburg imperial line across the Semmering Pass, Graz, the Lurgrotte Caves, Slovenia, an earthquake in Ljubljana, and cafe culture in Italy.
3"Pisa to Lake Garda"30 October 2015 (2015-10-30)
The Maserati sports car, the Leaning tower of Pisa, the Carrara marble used by Michelangelo, Bologna, spaghetti bolognese, tagliatelle al ragu, and a high-speed boat trip across Lake Garda.
4"Athens to Thessaloniki"13 November 2015 (2015-11-13)
The Acropolis, moussaka, baklava, Greek financial crises, the 1896 Summer Olympics, a boat trip through the Corinth Canal, Delphi, the Oracle, the Little Train of Pelion, the village of Milies, the Greek Orthodox Church, and the 1913 assassination of George I of Greece
5"The Black Forest to Hannover"20 November 2015 (2015-11-20)
Hansel and Gretel, the cuckoo clock, Heidelberg Castle, share-dealing on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, the University of Göttingen and its duelling fraternities, the scientists who laid the foundation for Germany's transport systems, the Göttingen wind tunnel, and model trains.
6"Barcelona to Mallorca"27 November 2015 (2015-11-27)
The Spanish Civil War, the Balearic island of Mallorca, a 1912 vintage railway and a 1913 tram, a Catalan people tower, how to make paella, Antoni Gaudí, the Sagrada Família, and the art nouveau Palace of Catalan Music.

Series 5 (2016)[edit]

# Title Original air date
1"Transylvania to the Black Sea"20 September 2016 (2016-09-20)
Transylvania, including Brașov and Bran Castle, the Carpathian Mountains, Peleș Castle in Sinaia, the oil refinery at Ploiești, Romania's most famous composer George Enescu in the capital Bucharest, and the oldest inhabited city in Romania, Constanța on the Black Sea.
2"Zermatt to Geneva"27 September 2016 (2016-09-27)
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.
3"Tangier to Marrakech"4 October 2016 (2016-10-04)
From the Mediterranean port of Tangier to the Berber city of Marrakech. Michael visits Fez, and then heads to Casablanca and the desert city of the Berbers; he then travels to a souk, finally arriving in Marrakech.
4"Genoa to the Brenner Pass"11 October 2016 (2016-10-11)
From the Italian Riviera to the Austrian Alps. Michael visits remote villages of the Cinque Terre, then heads to Parma. Next up is the Alps, stopping off in Rovereto and ending at the Brenner Pass, home to one of the world's longest rail tunnels.
5"Riga to Tampere"18 October 2016 (2016-10-18)
The Latvian capital, Riga, the Singing Revolution at a ruined 13th century cathedral in Tallinn, ice swimming, the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius in Helsinki, and one of Finland's 180,000 lakes in Tampere.
6"Rotterdam to Utrecht"25 October 2016 (2016-10-25)
The port of Rotterdam, the windmills of Kinderdijk, pottery in Delft, The Hague, plant auctions in Haarlem, cycling in Amsterdam, and the main hub of the Dutch railway network in Utrecht.

Series 6 (2018)[edit]

# Title Original air date
1"Kiev to Odessa"8 March 2018 (2018-03-08)
2"Batumi to Baku"15 March 2018 (2018-03-15)

DVD releases[edit]

As of 2018 all series of Great Continental Railway Journeys to date have been released on DVD by FremantleMedia under licence from Boundless and the BBC.

Series UK release date
Series 1 29 May 2013
Series 2 28 April 2014
Series 3 23 March 2015
Series 4 21 November 2016
Series 5 13 February 2017
Series 6 30 April 2018


Great Continental Railway Journeys, written by Michael Portillo, was published by Simon & Schuster UK in October 2015.[4]


  1. ^ "Television review (series one)". The Telegraph. 9 November 2012.
  2. ^ Michael Portillo (22 October 2015). Great Continental Railway Journeys. Simon & Schuster UK. pp. 86–. ISBN 978-1-4711-5150-7.
  3. ^ "Chief Minister is Interviewed for Popular BBC Show" (PDF). HM Government of Gibraltar. 31 May 2013.
  4. ^ "Great Continental Railway Journeys by Michael Portillo". Simon & Schuster UK.

External links[edit]