The Best Elevators, Funiculars, and Scenic Railways Around the World

by Lisa Morrow

The Best Elevators, Funiculars, and Scenic Railways Around the World

by Lisa Morrow

Elevators, funiculars, and scenic railways offer the chance to summit the steepest inclines and conquer the world from above. They combine mechanical beauty, engineering marvels, sustainable power, and plain old fun, bringing out the kid in all of us. Here, the best around the world.

Elevators, funiculars, and scenic railways offer the chance to summit the steepest inclines and conquer the world from above. They combine mechanical beauty, engineering marvels, sustainable power, and plain old fun, bringing out the kid in all of us. Here, the best around the world.

10
Elevador de Santa Justa, Lisbon / arkanto/iStock
Budavari Siklo, Budapest
1 of 10
Budavari Siklo, Budapest

Budapest Castle Funicular took its first trip from the banks of the River Danube up to Buda Castle in 1870. It was the brainchild of Odon Szechenyi, son of Count Istvan Szechenyi of thermal bath fame. The funicular was destroyed in a bombing raid in World War II along with most of the city. Two meticulously accurate vintage reproduction cars ply the 311-foot track today. 1,200 Hungarian Forint ($4.25)  for a single ticket; 1,800 Hungarian Forint ($6.37) for a return ticket. 

Budapest Castle Funicular took its first trip from the banks of the River Danube up to Buda Castle in 1870. It was the brainchild of Odon Szechenyi, son of Count Istvan Szechenyi of thermal bath fame. The funicular was destroyed in a bombing raid in World War II along with most of the city. Two meticulously accurate vintage reproduction cars ply the 311-foot track today. 1,200 Hungarian Forint ($4.25)  for a single ticket; 1,800 Hungarian Forint ($6.37) for a return ticket. 

Ascensore Castello d'Albertis-Montegalletto a Genova
2 of 10
Ascensore Castello d’Albertis-Montegalletto Funicular Railway, Genoa

In order to traverse the steep hills surrounding the city of Genoa, the clever Italians came up with the idea of combining an elevator with a funicular. Passengers step into a small boxcar that trundles along for 774 feet until stopping at a wall. After a series of clicks and clunks, it begins a 227 foot ascent. Built in 1929, it uses a cable to propel the carriages both horizontally and vertically. 1.50 euro ($1.71) for a single ticket; 3 euro ($3.38) for a return ticket. 

In order to traverse the steep hills surrounding the city of Genoa, the clever Italians came up with the idea of combining an elevator with a funicular. Passengers step into a small boxcar that trundles along for 774 feet until stopping at a wall. After a series of clicks and clunks, it begins a 227 foot ascent. Built in 1929, it uses a cable to propel the carriages both horizontally and vertically. 1.50 euro ($1.71) for a single ticket; 3 euro ($3.38) for a return ticket. 

Flying Dutchman, Cape Point
3 of 10
Flying Dutchman, Cape Point, South Africa

In the 17th century, a ship was lost in storms off Cape Point, giving rise to the Flying Dutchman legend; its crew forever doomed to sail the sea. Luckily, the funicular of the same name is no apparition. It covers 1,919 feet of track in three minutes and rises 416 feet above sea level. Before it opened in 1996, the only way to visit the historic lighthouse at the top of the point was to drive or walk. 65 South African Rand ($4.38) for a single ticket; 80 South African Rand ($5.39) for a return ticket. 

In the 17th century, a ship was lost in storms off Cape Point, giving rise to the Flying Dutchman legend; its crew forever doomed to sail the sea. Luckily, the funicular of the same name is no apparition. It covers 1,919 feet of track in three minutes and rises 416 feet above sea level. Before it opened in 1996, the only way to visit the historic lighthouse at the top of the point was to drive or walk. 65 South African Rand ($4.38) for a single ticket; 80 South African Rand ($5.39) for a return ticket. 

Santa Justa Elevator, Lisbon
4 of 10
Santa Justa Elevator, Lisbon

Hilly Lisbon has scenic views, but reaching them can be arduous. The 147-foot-high Santa Justa lift, opened in 1902, makes it easy. Inspired by Eiffel, architect Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard built the lift of cast iron, embellished with filigree details. There’s an observation deck at the top and the remains of Igreja do Carmo loom behind, a reminder of the 1755 earthquake that flattened the city. 1.35 euro ($1/52) for a single ticket; 5.30 euro ($6.02) for a return ticket. 

Hilly Lisbon has scenic views, but reaching them can be arduous. The 147-foot-high Santa Justa lift, opened in 1902, makes it easy. Inspired by Eiffel, architect Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard built the lift of cast iron, embellished with filigree details. There’s an observation deck at the top and the remains of Igreja do Carmo loom behind, a reminder of the 1755 earthquake that flattened the city. 1.35 euro ($1.52) for a single ticket; 5.30 euro ($6.02) for a return ticket. 

Nerobergbahn Funicular, Germany
5 of 10
Nerobergbahn Funicular, Weisbaden

Built in 1888, the Nerobergbahn Funicular functions with only water and gravity. (Each car has a tank underneath.) The top car is filled with 1,500 gallons of water and a 1,483-foot-long cable joins it to the bottom. As the top car moves downwards, it pulls the other car up. Once at the base, the tank is emptied and the water is sent to the top car, recycling it to propel the next lap. 2.70 euro ($3.04) for a single ticket; 3.50 euro ($3.92) for a return ticket

Built in 1888, the Nerobergbahn Funicular functions with only water and gravity. (Each car has a tank underneath.) The top car is filled with 1,500 gallons of water and a 1,483-foot-long cable joins it to the bottom. As the top car moves downwards, it pulls the other car up. Once at the base, the tank is emptied and the water is sent to the top car, recycling it to propel the next lap. 2.70 euro ($3.04) for a single ticket; 3.50 euro ($3.92) for a return ticket

Peak Tram, Hong Kong
6 of 10
Peak Tram, Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s Peak Mountain stands just over 1,800 feet above sea level and offers a cool respite from the heat. From 1904 to 1947, the summit was a summer retreat reserved for the colony’s British elite. But, these days, it’s open to everyone. The period-style red trams capture the old-fashioned glamour of the past, while the sleek Sky Terrace 428 offers panoramic 360-degree views of Hong Kong. 84 Hong Kong dollars ($10.73) for a single ticket; 99 Hong Kong dollars ($16.65) for a return ticket.

Hong Kong’s Peak Mountain stands just over 1800 feet above sea level and offers a cool respite from the heat. From 1904 to 1947, the summit was a summer retreat reserved for the colony’s British elite. But, these days, it’s open to everyone. The period-style red trams capture the old-fashioned glamour of the past, while the sleek Sky Terrace 428 offers panoramic 360-degree views of Hong Kong. 84 Hong Kong dollars ($10.73) for a single ticket; 99 Hong Kong dollars ($16.65) for a return ticket.

 Penang Hill Railway, Penang
7 of 10
Penang Hill Railway, Penang, Malaysia

Penang Hill was once a British Colonial retreat, and is actually a collection of hills. The highest stands at 2,733 feet above sea level. A rail line opened in 1923 and ascends a nearly vertical tunnel track, making it the steepest funicular railway in the world. Passengers at the front of the carriages sit higher than those at the back. The railway travels 6,548 feet to the summit in five minutes. 15 Malaysian Ringgit ($3.63) for a single ticket; 30 Malaysian Ringgit ($7.18) for a return ticket. 

Penang Hill was once a British Colonial retreat, and is actually a collection of hills. The highest stands at 2,733 feet above sea level. A rail line opened in 1923 and ascends a nearly vertical tunnel track, making it the steepest funicular railway in the world. Passengers at the front of the carriages sit higher than those at the back. The railway travels 6,548 feet to the summit in five minutes. 15 Malaysian Ringgit ($3.63) for a single ticket; 30 Malaysian Ringgit ($7.18) for a return ticket. 

pmdl_scenicworld_2110.jpg
8 of 10
Scenic Railway, Blue Mountains

The Scenic Railway in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia, has been thrilling visitors since 1945. At 52 degrees, that’s a 128% incline, making it the steepest passenger railway in the world. Carriages built to the original design drop deep into an ancient rainforest as the glass-roofed carriages descend 1,000 feet. The more adventurous can ride the ‘Cliffhanger,' which features an incline of 64 degrees. Discovery Pass (a day pass that allows unlimited access to all Scenic World attractions) from 44 Australian dollars ($30.62). 
 

The Scenic Railway in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia, has been thrilling visitors since 1945. At 52 degrees, that’s a 128% inclinee, making it the steepest passenger railway in the world. Carriages built to the original design drop deep into an ancient rainforest as the glass-roofed carriages descend 1000 feet. The more adventurous can ride the ‘Cliffhanger,’ which features an incline of 64 degrees. Discovery Pass (a day pass that allows unlimited access to all Scenic World attractions) from 44 Australian dollars ($30.62). 

Tunel, Istanbul
9 of 10
Tünel, Istanbul

Tünel in Istanbul was the second-ever subway in the world, and it was the first funicular built underground to tackle a steep incline. Designed by French engineer Eugen Henri Gavand, it was steam powered back in 1875 and featured open carriages illuminated by lanterns. Converted to electricity in 1971, the journey is short and sweet — it takes all of 90 seconds to travel 1,879 feet. 4tl ($0.69) for a single ticket, or 2.60tl ($0.44) with an Istanbul Kart. Without the Istanbul Kart, a single ticket on Tünel would cost 5tl ($0.88), and a return ticket would cost 8tl ($1.41).  

Tünel in Istanbul was the second-ever subway in the world, and it was the first funicular built underground to tackle a steep incline. Designed by French engineer Eugen Henri Gavand, it was steam powered back in 1875 and featured open carriages illuminated by lanterns. Converted to electricity in 1971, the journey is short and sweet — it takes all of 90 seconds to travel 1,879 feet. 4tl ($0.69) for a single ticket, or 2.60tl ($0.44) with an Istanbul Kart. Without the Istanbul Kart, a single ticket on Tünel would cost 5tl ($0.88), and a return ticket would cost 8tl ($1.41). 

Tateyama Cable Car
10 of 10
Tateyama Cable Car, Murodo

Tateyama Cable Car travels nearly a mile and ascends to just shy of 1,650 feet above sea level. The short seven-minute ride passes by zaimokuseki, unusual pillar-shaped rocks formed when lava from the Tateyama volcano cooled millennia ago. At the top, buses follow the Kurobe Alpine sightseeing route in the Hida Mountains to the Murodo Plateau. 720 yen ($6.63) for a single ticket; 1290 yen ($11.88) for a return ticket. 

Tateyama Cable Car travels nearly a mile and ascends to just shy of 1,650 feet above sea level. The short seven-minute ride passes by zaimokuseki, unusual pillar-shaped rocks formed when lava from the Tateyama volcano cooled millennia ago. At the top, buses follow the Kurobe Alpine sightseeing route in the Hida Mountains to the Murodo Plateau. 720 yen ($6.63) for a single ticket; 1290 yen ($11.88) for a return ticket. 

Up next...

7 Affordable Beachfront Boutique Hotels in the Caribbean

Holland House Beach Hotel, Sint Marteen
Go Back
Find The Best Cruises
Find a cruise

Find the best deals!

Click on multiple sites to get the lowest prices

Click on multiple sites to get the lowest prices