In this review, I will travel on the EuroCity train ‘Emona’ (EC 150/151) which links Vienna with Graz, Maribor, Ljubljana and Trieste.
Emona EuroCity train
The next train on my trip to the Balkans would be a fun one, as I was about to board the Emona EuroCity train which links Vienna with Graz, Maribor, Ljubljana and Trieste.
The train name ‘Emona’ is derived from Colonia Iulia Aemona, a Roman ‘castro’ (fortress) which was built on the location where you can now find the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana.
What makes the Emona such a great train are the awesome scenery along the route and its on-board facilities, having one of the nicest restaurant wagons of any train in Europe.
The Emona currently has the train number EC 151 between Vienna and Ljubljana and continues from there to Trieste under the number EC 134 if you want to look it up in the railway timetables (the train numbers are EC 135 and EC 150 in the opposite direction).
Having spent a fun couple of hours exploring Graz, I would board the Emona train there.
Unfortunately, that meant that I would miss the particularly scenic stretch of the Semmering railway line between Vienna and Graz this time around.
However, as my train journey back would also take me over the Semmering Pass it wasn’t much of a big deal as I could still enjoy the terrific scenery on this line a couple of days later.
Boarding the train
Graz, Austria’s second largest city, has a modern railway station with all the shops and facilities you might need before you commence your train journey.
Although I arrived a bit early just in case, it wasn’t a crime to hang out on the platform spotting a few other cool train departures until the Emona finally arrived.
On board the Emona
Although the exact composition of the Emona train might differ depending on the day you are travelling, on my departure the train had both Austrian and Slovenian carriages.
These included a single Austrian first class carriage with open-plan saloon style seats, as well as both Austrian and Slovenian second class wagons with 6-seat compartments.
The Austrian first class carriage had a 1+2 seat configuration with comfortable leather seats with power sockets on either side of the aisle.
Although the Slovenian and Austrian second class carriages are comparable in comfort, the Slovenian wagons do not have power sockets while the Austrian ones do have them.
There is no WiFi internet on the Emona EuroCity train, although you can get a reliable 4G mobile signal during most of the route.
If you want to take a bike along, you will be pleased to hear that the Emona has a dedicated space for it in one of the carriages, although do note that it requires an advance reservation.
Although seat reservations are possible and recommended in peak travel periods, they aren’t obligatory.
The true highlight of the Emona EuroCity train is of course its Slovenian restaurant and bar wagon.
Note that the restaurant wagon of the Emona only operates between Vienna and Ljubljana (and vice versa) and is detached from the train before it continues its route to Trieste in Italy.
The dining car is open to passengers in both first and second class and seating is on a first come, first served basis.
Besides freshly cooked hot meals and breakfast, you can also sit in the dining car for soft or alcoholic drinks, as well as for tea or coffee.
Graz to the border
Immediately after I boarded the train, I headed for the dining car on the Emona.
Train journeys in Europe are always the most pleasant when sitting in the restaurant wagon and enjoying some food and drinks while watching the scenery out of the window.
That’s certainly the case when travelling on the Emona, as besides some great scenery you can enjoy some good food at affordable prices.
For around €10, I enjoyed a cold beer and a Wiener Schnitzel (Viennese schnitzel, a pan-fried veal cutlet) with chips.
Spielfeld-Straß (also spelled as Spielfeld-Strass) is the last station in Austria just before the train enters Slovenian territory.
As both Austria and Slovenia are in the Schengen Area of the European Union (EU), there are normally no passport checks at all.
However, as I was travelling at peak COVID pandemic times, Slovenia had special entry restrictions in place and I full expected some kind of passport control by border guards on the train to check whether people were following the new corona entry rules.
In early May 2021 when I took this trip, visitors to Slovenia had to quarantine on arrival, although you were exempted from this if you would just transit the country and leave again within 12 hours.
Despite the strict restrictions, there were however no border checks weirdly enough.
The first stop of the Emona in Slovenia is Maribor, the country’s second largest city which actually is a rather nice place to visit.
Just after the stop at Maribor’s railway station, the train crosses the Drava River and there are some great views over Maribor’s old town on your right-hand side when travelling south.
Soon after the departure from Maribor, the scenery switches from agricultural fields to rolling hills and dense forests.
Interesting sights to watch out for are the town of Celje with its hilltop castle and the brewery in the town of Laško (the latter is of course best viewed while sipping a cold Laško beer in the dining car!).
One thing which I always like to do on classical locomotive-hauled trains like the Emona is walking to the rear carriage.
Through the windows of the rear door you can often have some amazing views back over the railway tracks, which certainly was the case on this ride as the train traversed the twisty tracks through the Slovenian hills.
In my opinion, the most beautiful part of the long route of the Emona train between Vienna and Ljubljana is the stretch between Celje and Zidani Most.
Here, the railway line follows the course of the Savinja River through a gorgeous forested valley and gorge.
Of all stations on the route of the Emona train, Zidani Most serves the smallest settlement as only 284 inhabitants live in this village.
However, it’s not the village which makes Zidani Most and important stop, but rather the location of this station on an important railway junction.
Zidani Most (which literally translates as ‘Stone Bridge’) is located at the confluence of the Savinja and Sava rivers.
At this important railway junction, the railway lines between Vienna and Ljubljana, Zagreb to Ljubljana as well as the line between Zagreb and Vienna all meet.
Therefore Zidani Most is an important interchange station, and I would also disembark the train here as I was connecting to Zagreb.
Even if you remain on board, make sure you enjoy the views through the window as Zidani Most has one of the most scenic train station locations in Europe.
While standing on the platform of Zidani Most station, I watched the Emona continues its journey towards Ljubljana.
The Emona EuroCity train which links Vienna with Ljubljana and Trieste is one of Europe’s classic railway journeys.
This train does not only link some of Central Europe’s most appealing cities, but also traverses some amazing scenery.
Starting with the famous Semmering Railway line through the Austrian mountains, it continues through lovely fields and forests in Slovenia, traverses the stunning Savinja and Sava river valleys, until it finally arrives at the Gulf of Trieste and the Adriatic Sea.
Whether you travel in first or second class, the Emona is certainly a comfortable train.
The true highlight is its excellent dining car, which serves some appetising food and drinks for affordable prices.
I can certainly recommend taking a ride on the Emona, no matter if you plan to travel the entire length of the route between Vienna and Trieste, or just use it to reach cities in Slovenia like Ljubljana.
Trip report index
This article is part of the ‘Across Europe by Train: Interrail in the Age of Corona‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:
1. Review: LOT Polish Airlines Economy Class Bucharest to Warsaw (Embraer ERJ-175)
2. Walking Through an Empty Warsaw in Corona Lockdown
3. Review: Four Points by Sheraton Warsaw Mokotow
4. Review: LOT Polish Airlines Economy Class Warsaw to Zurich (Boeing 737 MAX)
5. A Stopover Walk Through the Old Town of Zurich
6. Review: Railjet Train Zurich to Feldkirch
7. An Evening in Friendly Little Feldkirch
8. Review: Nightjet Train Feldkirch to Graz
9. A Short Walk Along the Sights of Graz
10. Review: Emona EuroCity Train Vienna – Ljubljana – Trieste (current chapter)
11. Zidani Most: Europe’s Most Picturesque Train Station
12. Review: Ljubljana to Zagreb by EuroCity Train EC 1211 ‘Sava’
13. Flying With Trade Air on a Let L-410 Turbolet Across Croatia
14. Review: Palace Derossi, Trogir, Croatia
15. A Visit to the Tranquil Island City of Trogir, Croatia
16. Cycling on Ciovo: A Trogir Day Trip by Bike
17. Split: Croatia’s Bustling Seaside City Full of History
18. Review: Croatian Railways ICN Train Split to Zagreb
19. Review: Esplanade Hotel, Zagreb, Croatia
20. Zagreb: A Guide to Croatia’s Underrated Capital City
21. Review: EuroCity Train “Croatia” Zagreb to Vienna
22. Review: Dacia Night Train Vienna to Bucharest