Train advice from the Man in Seat 61...

The Man in Seat 61

Share on Facebook

A beginner's guide to

Train travel in europe.

  • Buy train tickets
  • Buy ferry tickets
  • Book a hotel
  • Privacy & cookies
  •   Home

Train travel UK & Ireland...

Train travel in europe..., train travel in asia..., train travel in africa..., train travel in america..., train travel in australasia.

Europe starts on Eurostar at St Pancras...

Breakfast in London, dinner in Barcelona

There's no need to fly within Europe.  It's surprisingly easy, quick and comfortable to travel by train from London to almost anywhere:  Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Greece, Prague, Helsinki, wherever.  The difficult bit is finding out how to do it and where to buy tickets.  That's where Seat 61 comes in.

This website explains the best routes, train times & fares from London to major destinations all over Europe, and between major European cities.

It explains the best way to buy tickets for your specific journeys, whether you live in the UK, mainland Europe, the USA, Australia, wherever.

Train times & tickets

If your journey starts in the UK , select your destination country in the upper drop-down box to see the best routes, train times, fares & how to buy tickets.

If your journey starts in another European country , select the city where your journey starts in the lower drop-down box - if it isn't listed, select one nearest to it in the same country.

Return to this page for general information & advice about European train travel.

Planning your trip

How to buy tickets, luggage, bikes, dogs & cars, about specific trains & routes, station guides, how to check train times.

If you only remember one European train travel resource

Apart from seat 61 of course - make it .  This has an excellent online timetable for the whole of Europe, probably the most useful European train travel resource on the net.  Ask it for Palermo to Helsinki or Lisbon to Moscow and you'll see what I mean.  These tips may help:

Place names

It recognises English-language place names & prompts with station or city names.

If you don't know which station to select

The safest option is to select the plain city name, often in capitals, for example PARIS or BERLIN.  The system will work out which is the relevant station for your journey.

If it only offers specific stations, try to select the main station in that city, which may be shown as main station or (in Italy) Centrale , in the Netherlands as Centraal , in Germany or Austria as Hauptbahnhof, Hbf or HB (= main station in German), Hlavni in Czech or Glowny (Gl.) in Polish.

In Brussels, Brussels South Station is the main station, also known as Brussels Midi or Brussel Zuid .  In Barcelona, select Barcelona Sants .  In Verona, select Verona Porta Nuova .  In Turin, the main terminus station is Torino Porta Nuova , but the TGV trains to/from Paris use Torino Porta Susa , which many trains leaving from Porta Nuova heading for Venice or Rome also call at.  In Venice, Venice Santa Lucia is on the Grand Canal in central Venice, Venice Mestre is on the mainland.  In Lisbon, select Lisbon Santa Apolonia .

It only holds data for the main rail operators

Plus some smaller operators, not for all trains everywhere.  Notably it does not cover:

- Some private open-access operators such as Italo in Italy.

- The Circumvesuviana Railway, Naples-Herculaneum-Pompeii-Sorrento.

- Euskotren in Spain, operating narrow gauge local trains between Hendaye, San Sebastian & Bilbao.

- FEVE in Spain, who run narrow gauge local trains along the north coastal towns.

- Spanish suburban routes including Barcelona to Latour de Carol and Barcelona to Portbou & Cerbère.

- It doesn't always hold complete or 100% accurate data for the Balkans or Greek domestic trains.

For British train times it's better to use as this will show any engineering work alterations.

Timetable changes in June & December

It usually holds data only until the next Europe-wide timetable change , which happens twice a year at midnight on the 2nd Saturday in June & December.  So don't be surprised if it shows no trains running in late December if you ask it in August, that's beyond the December timetable change.  Data for dates after the December timetable change usually starts to come online by mid-October and isn't 100% reliable until early December.  Also note that data for French, Italian & Spanish trains will only be held for the next few months, not for the whole timetable period.

This system is very good, but some railways (typically the Spanish, Hungarians, Polish & Balkan railways) can be late in supplying data, and data can be unreliable in some parts of the Balkans, for example.  If you get strange results you can try the railway operator's own website instead, for example for Spain or for Greece.  There's a complete list of rail websites on the useful links page .

You can adjust transfer time

By default the system allows the minimum time to change trains, whether changing into a local train that runs every 30 minutes or into a sleeper train which you can't afford to miss.  It won't suggest impossible connections, it always allows enough time to walk from one train to the other if the first train is on time, but it doesn't take into account the possibility of the first train running 20 minutes late. 

It's a good policy to allow more time for transfers, so click in the From box to open the details panel, then change Transfer time from Normal to (say) at least 40 minutes .

On a through ticket you're legally entitled to later onward travel if a delay means a missed connection ( more info on that here ), but with separate non-refundable train-specific tickets the risk is yours so you should allow more than the minimum, see more about how long to allow for connections here .

You can specify a route or add stopovers

Click Stopovers to set one or two via stations if you want to find journeys via a particular route.  By adding a duration in hours and minutes you can specify stopovers at these stations.

Fares & tickets will show train times for virtually any journey in Europe, but will only show fares and sell tickets for journeys to, from or within Germany, plus a few cross-Germany routes such as Belgium/Netherlands to Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Czech Republic.  To check fares for other journeys, see the How to buy European train tickets page .

DB Navigator is a free online train timetable app for all of Europe, the app version of the German Railways all-Europe online timetable at  It provided a journey planner, train details, and calling points, though it needs a WiFi or mobile data connection.  To download, go to (please let me know if that link stops working).

Railplanner is a free offline train timetable app that you can download onto your phone to check train times & train calling points on the move without the need to be on WiFi or to use mobile data .  It's blisteringly quick and covers almost all the train covered by the DB Navigator app.  The whole European timetable sits on your phone, with updates automatically downloaded every month.  It's created with Eurail and Interrail passholders in mind, but is useful for anyone. Download for iPhone or Android at - please let me know if the link stops working!

Station arrivals & departures

Click here & enter a station to check scheduled train departures or arrivals at almost any station across Europe.  This is an online equivalent of the printed departure posters displayed at stations.  It shows real-time information for stations in Germany if you pick today's date, but for 'real time' information in other countries, see the real-time section below .

The European Rail Timetable

The world-famous European Rail Timetable is the train traveller's bible, with route maps and up-to-date timetables for trains, buses and ferries for all European countries, plus trains in Asian Turkey and Russia including the Trans-Siberian railway, ferries to North Africa & the Mediterranean islands.

Published since 1873, it had just celebrated 140 years of publication when Thomas Cook pulled the plug on their entire publishing department, and the August 2013 edition was the last to be published by Thomas Cook.  The good news is that the dedicated ex-Thomas Cook team set up a private venture and a reborn European Rail Timetable continues to be published.  Remarkably, the timetable has now survived its parent company, as Thomas Cook collapsed in 2019.  What does it contain?

Buy online at for around £16.99 with shipping worldwide.

If you live in the UK you can also buy from , it's eligible for Amazon Prime next-day delivery.

Back to top

How to check fares & buy tickets

This section has turned into a bit of an essay .  If you just want to know how to buy tickets, skip this section, go to the How to buy tickets page , select a specific journey and I'll tell you how to book it.  If you're interested in how European train booking works (or doesn't), read on.

Reality check:  No single website sells tickets for all trains in all countries

Although you can look up train times almost anywhere in Europe using , there isn't a single website that can show fares & sell tickets for every European train in every country.

So you can't go to (there's no such site) and buy a Stockholm to Alicante ticket (there's no such ticket).  It's perfectly possible to travel by train from Stockholm to Alicante, but we're talking 6 trains run by 5 different operators ticketed with at least 4 separate tickets.  Ah, I see from the look on your face that realisation is beginning to dawn...

Each country has its own national operator with its own website

Each national train operator has its own website and its own ticketing system.  Then there are various private operators, either genuinely independent such as Italo , Regiojet or Leo Express , or pseudo-independent such as TGV-Lyria created by the relevant national rail operator(s) to run specific international routes.

In fact, Europe has over 50 different rail operator websites selling train tickets for their own trains, even before considering third-party ticket resellers.  You need to use the right website for the right journey.  So which is the relevant operator for your journey?

If you go to the How to buy tickets page , select your starting city, and on the next page select your destination, you'll find my advice on how to book that specific route.

However, as a rule of thumb, if there's a named operator such as Eurostar or Regiojet you'd go to that operator's website, in this case or  If it's a normal international train jointly run by the relevant national rail operators, your starting assumption should be to use the national rail operator website for the country where your journey starts, then check the one where it ends.

The pseudo-independent operators can also be booked at the owning national operator sites

Eurostar is owned by French Railways (SNCF) and others, and Eurostar tickets can also be bought at SNCF's website .  TGV-Lyria is owned by SNCF & SBB (Swiss Railways) and can also be booked at or  The national operator sites can of course book other trains in their respective countries too, in connection with Eurostar or TGV-Lyria.  So London to Avignon by Eurostar & onwards French train can be booked as one transaction at French Railways , for example.  It can be useful to know that!

International trains can usually be booked at the national operator website at either end

For international journeys, your starting assumption is to book them at the national rail operator website for the country where the journey starts.  But if a train can be e-ticketed, you can also book using the destination country's national train operator website.

For example, Berlin-Prague trains are run jointly by German & Czech national railways, and can be booked at either German Railways or Czech Railways with print-your-own tickets.

Now it gets interesting, as this is one of the routes where each partner operator manages advance-purchase price levels independently.  So the price at might be €39 (with cheaper €19 & €29 tickets sold out), whilst €19 tickets remain available for the same train at  It pays to check both!

In fact, even the fixed-price full-flex fare can differ between partner operators.  As I write this, Austrian Railways (ÖBB) charge €64 for a full-flex on-the-day ticket from Vienna to Prague, but even if you were in the ÖBB ticket office at Vienna Hbf, it'd be cheaper to whip out your phone and buy exactly the same ticket for the same trains from Czech Railways for €42.

But a word of warning:  Check ticket delivery carefully if buying from the operator at the destination end.  For example, Austrian Railways issues print-your-own tickets for Vienna-Venice trains so can be used for either direction. can also book these Vienna-Venice trains, but you must collect a hard-copy ticket from a Trenitalia ticket machine or ticket office in Italy - not much help if you're starting in Vienna!

There are exceptions to this rule, of course.  The Paris-Milan Frecciarossas enter France on an open-access commercial basis, so can only be booked at, not  Whilst the competing Paris-Milan TGVs enter Italy on an open-access commercial basis and can only be booked at, not

Some trains aren't bookable online at all

Another reality check:  Slovenian, Croatian, Bulgarian & Turkish railways don't sell international tickets online, for example.  Trains between Slovenia or Croatia & Germany can be booked online in either direction at German Railways .  Trains between Slovenia or Croatia & Austria can be booked online in either direction at Austrian Railways .  But the only way to buy tickets from Ljubljana to Zagreb or Zagreb to Belgrade or Sofia to Istanbul, is at the station.

Longer journeys often need to be broken down into stages

Many international journeys involve a change of train, often this means a change of operator.  Operator websites may not be able to sell tickets for such journeys.  Nice to Milan can't be booked at the French Railways website , because SNCF can't access prices or tickets for the Trenitalia train between Ventimiglia & Milan (Ventimiglia is the border station where you change trains).  And the Trenitalia website can't book you from Nice to Milan either, because it can't access prices or tickets for the SNCF train between Nice & Ventimiglia.  You need to book Nice-Ventimiglia at and Ventimiglia-Milan at .  Two tickets, two bookings, on two different websites, such is the reality of Europe's rail network in the 21st century.  But there are two specialist retailer sites that resolve this.

Introducing &

Two ticket retailer websites deserve a special mention, & .  These connect to multiple operators, allowing tickets for trains across much of western Europe to be booked in one place.

They have their own journey planning logic, so (for example) they can work out a suitable journey from Nice to Milan using an SNCF train from Nice to Ventimiglia and a Trenitalia train from Ventimiglia to Milan, they then source the Nice-Ventimiglia ticket from SNCF and the Ventimiglia-Milan ticket from Trenitalia, and add them together to provide you with a Nice-Milan journey as one seamless transaction.

I often recommend or as they allow you to book tickets together in one place for journeys that would otherwise require multiple bookings on different websites.  They are designed for international users, so happily accept overseas payment cards (some national train operator sites struggle) and are written in plain English (some national rail operator sites slip back into local language or use poor English translations).  The downside is that they charge a small booking fee, but it's often worth paying that. or currently connect to the following national railways: Great Britain (National Rail), France (SNCF), Spain (Renfe), Italy (Trenitalia), Germany (Deutsche Bahn), Austria (ÖBB).  They also both connect to private operator Italo . also connects to Swiss Railways (SBB), the Benelux ticketing system (SNCB, NS & CFL) and private operators Regiojet & Westbahn . or come as close as you'll get to a pan-European train booking site, but even they don't yet connect to the Portuguese, Czech, Slovakian, Slovenian, Croatian, Hungarian, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Bulgarian, Turkish, Greek, Romanian, or Polish Railways ticketing systems.  So for a €15 Lisbon-Porto ticket you still need to go to Portuguese Railways and the only place you'll find a €21 Prague-Budapest ticket is Czech Railways  You get the picture?

More about who Thetrainline are .  More about who Raileurope are .

Incidentally, you might also come across .  Omio has similar connectivity, but at the time I write this it doesn't have any journey planning logic.  So although it can sell you a Nice-Ventimiglia ticket using its connection to SNCF if you ask it for Nice to Ventimiglia, and it can sell a Ventimiglia-Milan ticket using its connection to Trenitalia if you ask it for Ventimiglia to Milan, if you ask it for Nice to Milan it will say there are no trains (and will suggest a flight) because it lacks the capability to plan the journey itself and combine multiple tickets.  It also says there are no trains for journeys where it lacks the necessary connectivity.  For example, Omio says there are no trains from Budapest to Zagreb and suggests a bus, but you can easily buy a train ticket from €19 from Hungarian Railways at .  So it's important to understand a site's limitations.  Omio does have some extra connectivity, for example it connects to Swedish Railways so can be useful to book Swedish trains if rejects your credit card, and to Portuguese Railways which no other site does.

So which website should you use to buy tickets?

Don't worry!  On I'll tell you the right website(s) to use for any given European journey (well, almost).  Go to the How to buy European tickets page and select your starting city.  On the next page, select your destination city.  I'll then explain the different ways you can make that specific journey and which website(s) to use to buy tickets.

To check fares & buy tickets in one country

You can check fares & (usually) buy tickets for domestic journeys at each country's national rail website, see the links page for a complete list .

To check fares & buy tickets for international journeys

The national rail websites listed above sometimes sell international tickets to neighbouring countries as well, but often only in a limited way, for example tickets for direct trains.  However, you'll find detailed advice on how to book specific international journeys on the How to buy European tickets page .  Here are some general rules of thumb.

Rule-of-thumb 1, try & .

These connect to the British, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Austrian, Benelux systems and can easily book journeys including multi-operator journeys to, from and within those countries.

Be aware of their limitations:  You still need to use other sites for journeys not covered, for example they don't connect to the Portuguese, Norwegian, Finnish, Croatian, Bulgarian, Czech or Hungarian ticketing systems.  They also charge a small booking fee, you can avoid paying any fee by buying direct from train operator websites, using the following rules of thumb.

Rule-of-thumb 2 , if you know that the train you want is run by a specific operator, go to that operator's website:

- for Eurostar trains between London & Paris, London & Brussels or anywhere in Belgium.

- or for TGV-Lyria high-speed trains between Paris & Switzerland.

- for Regiojet trains between Vienna & Prague or Prague & Bratislava.

Rule-of-thumb 3 , otherwise, simply go to the national train website for the country where your journey starts.  Although there are many exceptions to this rule, as you can see below:

- For journeys starting in London : for Eurostar to Lille, Paris, Brussels or anywhere in Belgium. or for journeys to Rotterdam, Amsterdam or anywhere in Belgium or the Netherlands. or for journeys to anywhere in France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Milan, Turin, Germany. 

- For journeys starting in Paris & France :

   The French Railways site sells many journeys from Paris & French cities to neighbouring countries.

   For journeys from Paris to Germany, it's better to use German Railways .

   For journeys from Paris & France to Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria it's better to use or .

- For journeys starting in Brussels, Bruges or Belgium :

   The Belgian Railways international site will handle journeys to neighbouring countries.

   For journeys from Belgium to Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Czech Rep. it's better to use German Railways .

   For the Nightjet sleeper from Brussels to Vienna it's better to use Austrian Railways or .

- For journeys starting in Amsterdam & the Netherlands:

   The Dutch Railways international site will handle journeys to neighbouring countries.

   For journeys to Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Czech Rep., Sweden it's better to use German Railways .

   For the Nightjet sleeper train from Amsterdam to Munich, Innsbruck & Vienna use Austrian Railways or .

- For journeys starting in Switzerland :

   The Swiss Railways site can book journeys to neighbouring countries, for example Paris.

   For journeys to Paris you can also use French Railways , it's worth checking prices there too.

   For journeys to Italy, it's better to use Italian Railways as SBB can't sell Trenitalia's cheap fares beyond Milan.

   For journeys to Germany, Benelux & Denmark it's better to use German Railways .

   For journeys to Austria you'll often find cheaper prices at the Austrian Railways site .

   For the sleeper train from Zurich to Prague sleeper, book using Czech Railways as can't sell it.

   For the sleeper trains from Zurich to Vienna, Budapest, Hamburg & Berlin use Austrian Railways or .

- For journeys starting in Italy :

   The Italian Railways site can book many international trains from Italy, but not the French-run trains Milan-Turin-Paris.

   For journeys from Milan or Turin to Paris, use French Railways .  Add connecting tickets from other cities at .

   It's better to use Austrian Railways for Venice-Vienna day & sleeper trains, Rome-Florence-Vienna/Munich sleeper trains.

- For journeys starting in Germany : 

   German Railways sells through tickets to most neighbouring countries. 

   For travel to Austria, it's often cheaper to use Austrian Railways , so check this too.

   For travel to Prague, it's often cheaper to use Czech Railways , so check this too.

   For Nightjet sleeper trains within Germany & to Switzerland & Austria, it's better to use Austrian Railways .

- For journeys starting in Austria:

    Austrian Railways can book journeys to most neighbouring countries.

   For travel to Germany, also check German Railways as they can occasionally be cheaper for the same train.

   For travel to Prague, check prices at Czech Railways too as they can be cheaper than ÖBB for the same train.

- For journeys starting in Prague :

    Czech Railways can book journeys to most neighbouring countries.

  For journeys between Prague & Brussels, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Stockholm also try German Railways .

- For journeys starting in Budapest :

   Hungarian Railways can book journeys to most neighbouring countries.

   For journeys to Germany, you can also check prices at German Railways , but the Hungarians are usually cheaper.

   For journeys to Austria, you can also check prices at Austrian Railways , but the Hungarians are usually cheaper.

   The sleeper trains from Budapest to Zurich & Munich can also be booked at .

- For journeys starting in Slovenia or Croatia

  Zagreb or Ljubljana to Germany can be booked at German Railways .

  Zagreb or Ljubljana to Austria can be booked at Austrian Railways .

  Other international journeys (e.g. to Belgrade or Budapest) cannot be booked online, you have to go to the station.

- For journeys starting in Poland :

   Polish Railways haven't yet enabled online booking for international trains, except for than Berlin-Warsaw.

   You can book from Warsaw or Krakow to German cities at German Railways and print out your ticket.

   The sleeper train from Warsaw & Krakow to Vienna can be booked at Austrian Railways as you can print your own ticket.

   All other international tickets starting in Poland can be arranged through reliable ticketing agency .

- For journeys starting in Copenhagen :

   Danish Railways can't sell international tickets.

   German Railways can sell tickets from Copenhagen to Germany, Brussels, Amsterdam, Prague, Switzerland.

- For journeys starting in Stockholm & Sweden : (formerly GoEuro) or can sell tickets to Oslo or Copenhagen or within Sweden. 

   German Railways can sell tickets from Stockholm, Gothenburg & Malmo to anywhere in Germany.

   German Railways can also sell tickets from Stockholm, Gothenburg & Malmo to Amsterdam, Brussels, Switzerland & Prague.

Rule-of-thumb 4 , break the journey down

I have lost count of the times I've advised travellers to split the booking and book each section of the journey, or if necessary, each individual train, at the relevant operator's website.

For example, comes up with silly-money €246 prices if you ask it for Paris to Vienna, a journey which passes through Frankfurt, but it will happily sell you a Paris-Frankfurt ticket from €39 and a Frankfurt to Vienna ticket from €29 if you break the journey down.

Similarly, Prague to Venice can't be booked online anywhere, but the Czech Railways site will happily sell you a Prague to Vienna ticket from €14 and Austrian Railways will book the Vienna-Venice sleeper from €59 with couchette.

There are endless examples of this all over Europe, some creative thinking is often required!

Rule-of-thumb 5 , some trains cannot be booked online

Remember that some trains simply cannot be booked online so will need to be booked by phone or at the station.  For example Zagreb to Belgrade, Belgrade to Montenegro, or Sofia to Istanbul.

I'll say it again, for advice on which website to use for which specific European train journey, see the How to buy European train tickets page .

It matters whom you call!  Some agencies are better for some journeys than others because of the ticketing systems they use.

You'll find a list of agencies with advice on who to call on the How to buy train tickets by phone page .

Maps of the European rail network

Free online rail maps.

This free online rail map of Europe is a good basic overview of the extent of the European railway network. 

It's intended for people using a Eurail or Interrail pass so leaves out many routes in non-Interrail/Eurail countries such as Russia & Ukraine, and leaves out many smaller lines even in countries covered by these passes.

For more detail, try the zoom-able online map of European (and indeed, world) railways at .

You can also try the Swiss Railways all-Europe online map at .  Zoom in for more detail.

For the best (and official) map of the British rail network , click here .

For an online map of the French rail network click here .

For an online interactive map of the German rail network click here .

For the best (and official) map of the Swiss rail network , click here .

But for a decent map of all European train routes, you really need to buy one of the printed rail maps listed below.

Rail Map Europe:  Buy here

Travellers' railway map:  buy here, rail atlas of europe by ian allan:  buy here.

Ian Allan Publishing do an excellent hardback rail atlas of Europe for around £21, available through .  You can also buy it in the USA at .

Rail Atlas of Europe by M Ball:  Buy here

There's another highly-detailed European Railway atlas covering the whole of Europe, , price £24.95 in 122-page paperback book form covering 23,000 locations with free PDF version for your computer, tablet or phone.

Real-time train running information

Are the trains running on time?  Delays, incidents, strikes or disruptions?

London to Paris or Brussels by Eurostar

Changing trains in paris.

Train journeys from the UK into Europe often involve a change of train and station in Paris.  Eurostar arrives at the Gare du Nord , which is an easy 7 minute 500m walk from the Gare de l'Est but a metro or taxi ride from the other Paris stations including the Gare de Lyon .

See the Changing trains & stations in Paris page for advice on metro, RER and taxi travel, and an easy route guide.

The Paris metro website is .

If you want to spend some time in Paris, by all means take an earlier Eurostar on the outward journey or a later one on your return.  There are left luggage lockers at several Paris rail stations if you need to leave your luggage somewhere.

You can avoid the hassle of crossing Paris when travelling to many French destinations, by changing at Lille , see the London to France page .

Changing trains in Brussels

The ferry alternatives, london to paris by train & ferry.

London to Paris 'sleeper' option via Portsmouth-Caen:   There's an overnight train-ferry-train option where you can leave London Waterloo around 18:30, sleep in a comfortable cabin with en suite shower & toilet 22:45-06:45 on Brittany Ferries' overnight sailing from Portsmouth to Caen, then take a train from Caen to Paris St Lazare arriving around 11:05.  This is not a bad option if you need an alternative to Eurostar.  Times, fares & info for travelling from London & Portsmouth to Paris by overnight train & ferry are shown here .

London to Amsterdam by train & ferry

Uk to spain by ferry, other useful ferry routes.

DFDS Seaways ( ) sail overnight from Newcastle to IJmuiden near Amsterdam, see the Newcastle-Amsterdam page .

Should you go 1st or 2nd class?

2nd class is absolutely fine for most travellers.  There's no need to pay for a 1st class ticket to travel in comfort these days, especially on the fast modern air-conditioned express trains.  So if you're on a budget, don't bother with 1st class unless you are offered prices that make it silly not to upgrade.

For most of us, 2nd class is the norm unless the Company is paying.  If you're visiting Europe from overseas, rest assured that there are very few peasants and chickens in 2nd class these days.

What more do you get in 1st class? 

First class gets you wider seats, plusher seats, more leg and elbow room, and fewer passengers per coach.  In most cases, assume that is all.  Luggage room is the same, perhaps with fewer passengers per coach using it, but this is not a sensible reason for paying a 1st class fare as there's always room for luggage in any class.

On a few premier trains including Eurostar , Spanish AVE trains & Lyria , some 1st class fares include an at-seat service of food & drink, but these are the exceptions.  Unless you're told otherwise, you should assume that a 1st class ticket simply gets you a nicer seat with more leg and elbow room, surrounded by more business travellers with laptops and fewer families with kids.  On German ICEs and Austrian railjets , food & drink is not included but in 1st class a steward will take orders and serve you at your seat, in 2nd class you have to go to the bistro or restaurant car.

Tables for two & solo seats:   First class cars generally have seats arranged 2+1 across the width of the car (two seats abreast, then the aisle, then one solo seat), hence the wider seats with more elbow room compared to 2+2 seating in 2nd class.  So in a typical first class car you'll find face-to-face tables for two and solo seats as well as tables for four - if you're a couple, facing each other across an intimate table for two, both of you getting a seat that's both window and aisle, is a key advantage of going 1st class.  As is booking a solo seat if you're travelling alone, a seat that's both aisle and window, where you aren't sitting next to anyone else.

Train seat numbering plans :  Click here for train seating plans

1st class can be an affordable treat

Don't decide until you see the price!  Most train operators have airline-style variable pricing, you might find 2nd class costs €40 and 1st class only €45 because of the way the price quotas have worked in each class.  In which case you'd be crazy not to pay an extra €5 to upgrade!

On sleeper trains, class is irrelevant

On sleeper trains, whether you have a 1st or 2nd class ticket is almost irrelevant, as your comfort depends on the type of sleeping accommodation you pay for:  Seat, couchette, or sleeper.  A 2nd class couchette is more comfortable (and more secure) than a 1st class seat.  A 2nd class sleeper is more comfortable than a 1st class couchette (where such things exist).  In fact, on most routes only a 2nd class ticket is now needed for a 2-bed sleeper.  On nightjet sleeper trains , for example, all accommodation is now classified as 2nd class, even deluxe sleepers with shower.  The options for travelling on overnight trains are explained here .

Should you make a seat reservation ?

Local, suburban & regional trains in most countries don't have seat reservations.  You just get on and sit where you like, like the London Underground or New York Subway.

Long-distance trains in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Sweden & Poland are usually all-reserved and every ticket comes with a seat reservation automatically included, free of charge.  The same goes for international trains to, from or between these countries including Eurostar , TGV-Lyria , Paris-Barcelona TGVs , Paris-Milan TGVs , Paris-Milan Frecciarossas and Paris-Germany TGV/ICE trains .  Such trains often don't have any displays showing which seats are reserved and which free because it's assumed that all passengers have a reserved seat.

Long-distance trains in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark & much of central Europe are usually reservation optional .  You can travel without a reservation (the risk is you may have to stand at busy times) or you can pay a small fee to reserve a seat.  If you don't have a reservation you can sit in any empty unreserved seat - an electronic display above each seat (or on older trains, a little printed slip in a slot) show which seats are reserved.

Making a short journey mid-week in February as a solo traveller I might not bother making a reservation, especially if I'm joining at the station where the train starts so will have my pick of the seats.  But if you're making a long journey or travelling on a busy Friday or Sunday afternoon or travelling with your family or in a small group, I strongly recommend making a reservation to be sure of a seat.  You are usually offered the option of adding a seat reservation when buying a ticket online, if you fail to add one you can sometimes make a separate seat reservation only booking later, the German, Austrian & Czech railway websites can do that, but not all websites.

Forward-facing seats

I know from experience that American visitors in particular (if you'll forgive me for saying so) are obsessed with facing forwards.  Europeans less so, as we are used to trains with half the seats facing one way, half the other, and we know that it's no big deal as trains run smoothly on rails - think cruise liner restaurant, where half the diners are going backwards at 18 knots without noticing!

On most European trains you cannot specify which way your seat faces.  The reservation system knows the carriage seat layout, but it cannot predict which way round the train will enter service that day.  Indeed, on some routes the train reverses en route, for example on a journey from Rome to Venice, seats which are backward-facing from Rome to Florence will be forward-facing from Florence to Venice as the train changes direction at Florence SMN which is a terminus.  Similarly, trains from Zurich to Innsbruck, Salzburg & Vienna change direction at Buchs, before the Austrian border.

There are a few cases where a forward-facing seat can be requested.  Some operators including Eurostar keep their trains a particular way round, for example on Eurostar car 1 is always at the London end, car 16 at the Paris end.  You can often select your seat from a seat map when you book such trains direct with the relevant operator, the direction of travel is often indicated on the plan so you can see which seats face which way.  On a few TGV routes in France a clever dual numbering system allows the correct set of numbers to illuminate depending which way round the train is, which in turn allows the reservation system to offer a choice of forward-facing seat if you book at or .  In the UK, we have traditionally had a much simpler low-tech system.  Two seats facing each other have the same number, say 15, the one facing is 15F and the one going backwards is 15B.

Remember that on trains where reservation is optional (domestic trains in Benelux countries, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, and much of Eastern Europe) you can sit where you like, and if you find your reserved seats not to your liking just sit elsewhere.  However, in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, all long-distance trains are all-reserved so you usually have to stick with your reserved seats.

My favourite arrangement in first class on most European trains is a face-to-face table for two.  Both of you get a window seat, and both an aisle seat, and one seat is always facing forwards.  My wife usually gets that!  It also means you get the full length of a window to look out of, not half a window.

Which side of the train?

On some routes the best scenery is on a particular side of the train, for example the left hand side going south along the Rhine Valley from Cologne to Mainz, or the right hand side from Switzerland into Austria through the Arlberg Pass.  I try and mention which side to sit on the relevant pages of this site, if it matters.

However, many reservation systems won't let you choose which side of the train to sit as the train or carriage could enter service either way round.  Only in some cases is direction of travel shown.  On trains where reservation is optional (domestic trains in Benelux countries, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, much of central Europe) you can sit where you like so can move if your reserved seat is on the 'wrong' side.

First class lounges at stations

There are first class lounges at some major stations, usually with complimentary tea, coffee, soft drinks or even beer and wine, plus WiFi and charging points.  Sometimes the lounge is for anyone with a first class ticket (which may or may not include first class Eurail or Interrail passes), in other cases the lounges are only for holders of the most expensive premium-fare first class tickets or who have that train operator's frequent traveller loyalty card. Here's a quick guide:

Eurostar business lounges at London St Pancras, Paris Nord & Brussels Midi

Eurostar has a business lounge opening off the departures hall after security at London St Pancras , Paris Nord & Brussels Midi with complimentary tea, coffee, soft drinks, wine & spirits, beer and snacks.  The lounge has toilets, free WiFi and charging points.  The London and Paris lounges also have a free cocktail bar, open afternoon until evening.

The business lounges are open to holders of Business Premier tickets or holders of Eurostar's top-tier Carte Blanche loyalty card.  They are not open to holders of Standard Premier tickets or railpass holders. 

Paris & France

Anyone with any 1st class ticket for TGV-Lyria trains from Paris to Switzerland can use the SNCF Salon Grand Voyageur at Paris Gare de Lyon in Hall 3 with free WiFi, hot drinks and water.

Apart from this, the Salon Grand Voyageur is only open to travellers with SNCF loyalty cards or the most expensive full-price 1st class Pro tickets.  You can use it with any 1st class ticket if you have a Eurostar Carte Blanche loyalty card.

All the other major Paris termini and many big city stations across France have an SNCF Grand Voyageur lounge with free WiFi, hot drinks and water, but these are only for passengers with SNCF loyalty cards or the most expensive full-price 1st class Pro tickets.  You can use them with any 1st class ticket if you have a Eurostar Carte Blanche loyalty card.

Brussels & Belgium

Eurostar (formerly Thalys) has its own lounge at Brussels Midi, only for Eurostar (formerly Thalys) passengers who have the most expensive Premium class tickets.  Not open to holders of Comfort class (= regular 1st class) tickets or to railpass holders.

Apart from this there is no first class lounge at Brussels Midi , but I consider the bar at the Pullman Hotel to be the best VIP waiting room for the price of a beer.

Amsterdam & the Netherlands

There is an NS International Lounge at Amsterdam Centraal at the western end of platform 2 and there are similar lounges at Schiphol & Rotterdam Centraal .  You can use these lounges with any type of 1st class international ticket including 1st class Eurail & Interrail passes.

Follow the signs for NS International Lounge, check for opening times.  Tea, coffee, soft drinks and snacks available. 


Unfortunately, SBB closed their first class lounges at Zurich & Geneva at the end of 2016, citing lack of use.

Trenitalia has Freccialounges at major city stations.  These are only for holders of the most expensive Executive class tickets or who have Trenitalia's own frequent-traveller loyalty card.

Competitor Italo also has lounges at major city stations, branded Club Italo.   These are only for holders of the most expensive Club class tickets or who have Italo's own frequent-traveller loyalty card.

There is a Renfe Sala Club lounge at Madrid Atocha , Madrid Chamartin , Barcelona Sants , Malaga Maria Zambrano, Seville Santa Justa, Cordoba, Valencia, Alicante, Girona, Zaragoza Delicias, Valladolid and several other stations. 

The Sala Club is open to anyone who has paid the Premium fare, or who has a 1st class ticket for an international AVE (but not TGV ) to France.  Typically open from 06:00 to 22:00 every day.  You can use them from 2 hours before your train leaves until departure.

Tea, coffee, soft drinks, beer and snacks available.  For details search .

There are DB Lounges at major stations, but only for holders of the most expensive DB Flexpreis tickets.  You cannot use the lounges if you have a 1st class Sparpreis or Super Sparpreis ticket or Eurail or Interrail pass.

They don't admit holders of tickets for regional trains or trains operated without DB involvement such as Eurostar (formerly Thalys) , Nightjet , European Sleeper or the Munich-Prague trains .

However, if you have a Eurostar Carte Blanche loyalty card you can use a DB Lounge with any ticket.

There are lounges at Berlin Hbf , Bremen, Dresden, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt am Main Hbf , Frankfurt Flughafen , Hamburg Hbf , Hanover, Cologne Hbf , Leipzig, Mannheim, Munich Hbf , Nuremberg, Stuttgart.  Typically open 07:00-21:00 daily, follow signs for DB Lounge , search for opening times.

There are ÖBB Lounges at Vienna Hauptbahnhof , Vienna Meidling , Linz, Salzburg , Innsbruck , Graz & Klagenfurt.

These Austrian lounges are really useful because you can use them for up to 90 minutes before or after your journey with almost any type of 1st class ticket or with a ticket for any type of sleeper for Nightjet or EuroNight trains and with a 1st class Eurail or Interrail pass.

There's one exception:  You can use the lounge with a 1st class DB Sparpreis or Flexpreis fare, but not with a Super Sparpreis fare.

Typically open 06:00-21:00, for details see & search for ÖBB Lounge .  Tea, coffee, soft drinks, snacks & free WiFi available.

Budapest & Hungary

Budapest Keleti has an excellent business lounge on platform 9 , open 06:00-21:30 daily.  This lounge is really useful as it can be used by anyone with a 1st class international ticket to, from or via Budapest, or a single or double sleeper ticket, or a 1st class Eurail or Interrail pass with a reservation for a train that day.  Unfortunately, there's no lounge at Budapest Deli or Budapest Nyugati.

Prague & the Czech Republic

CD (Czech Railways) has a lounge at Prague Hlavni with newspaper and free WiFi, but it's also open to 2nd class passengers with tickets for the higher categories of train such as EuroCity and SuperCity so it's more upmarket waiting room than 1st class lounge.  The excellent Fantova Kavárna upstairs in the historic station hall makes a better VIP waiting lounge for the price of a cup of coffee.

PKP Intercity used to have poorly-advertised lounges at Warsaw Centralna & Krakow Glowny , but strangely closed them in 2014 due to lack of users.

Copenhagen & Denmark

DSB Danish Railways have DSB1 lounges for first class passengers at Copenhagen , Aarhus and Odense.  Open Monday-Friday only.  Passengers with 1st class tickets for SJ trains to Stockholm or Intercity trains to Germany can also use it.  For details search and use Google Translate.

Stockholm & Sweden

SJ have a first class lounge at both Stockholm Central & Gothenburg Central open to all first class ticket holders   It's open Monday-Friday only morning until mid-evening, for details see .

Travelling overnight

Sleeper trains are a time-effective and romantic way to travel.  Huge distances can be covered while you sleep, using less daytime time than flying and often saving a hotel bill, too.

Forget about first and second class on sleeper trains, these terms become misleading.  The real classes on an overnight train are seat, couchette and sleeper.  In fact, all accommodation on nightjet sleeper trains is now technically 2nd class, even a deluxe single-bed sleeper with shower.  Although some operators still require a 1st class ticket for a single-bed sleeper.

Incidentally, trains don't have sterns or bows or port or starboard as they are not a ship.  They also don't have cabins , the correct term has always been a sleeper or couchette compartment .

Click for sleeper & couchette car berth numbering plans , this answers the typical worry We have berths 21 & 25, are we in the same 2-berth compartment?   Yes, you are! a sleeping-car

A sleeping-car is the equivalent of a hotel :  A cosy bedroom, with comfortable beds, washbasin, and room service.  Sleepers come in 1, 2 & 3 berth varieties, depending on the route, whether you have a 1st or 2nd class ticket, and the price you want to pay.  For the daytime parts of a journey, the beds fold away to reveal a sofa.

If you are travelling alone and don't want to pay for a 1st class single room, you can normally book just one berth in a 2 or 3-berth room and share with other passengers of the same gender (though this is currently not possible in Italian domestic sleepers).

In addition to the normal lock, sleeper compartments have a security lock which cannot be opened from outside even with a staff key, so you'll be both safe and snug.  The most modern sleepers now have CCTV in the corridor, too.

On most sleeper train routes there are inclusive fares covering travel, sleeper & breakfast.  If you have an Interrail or Eurail pass, you can look up the additional cost of a sleeper on the Interrail & Eurail reservations page .

For more detailed information about what to expect when travelling by sleeper, see the Travelling by Sleeping-car or Couchette page or the information about specific sleeper trains, including:

- Nightjet sleeper trains linking Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland.

- Prague to Krakow sleeper train . a couchette

A couchette is rail's answer to a youth hostel or pensione:   Economical and comfortable, it's an ordinary seating compartment for 4 or 6 people by day, with fold-out padded bunks for 4 or 6 people by night, each with sheet, rug & pillow which you arrange yourself.  Male and female passengers normally share the same compartment (although there are 'ladies only' compartments on most routes), and apart from removing shoes & jackets,  passengers do not normally undress.

A berth in a 6-berth couchette compartment costs around €20-€27 per berth per night, in addition to a 2nd class ticket or railpass.  A berth in a less-crowded 4-berth couchette compartment costs around €30-€37 per berth per night, in addition to a 2nd class ticket or railpass.

In addition to the normal lock, couchette compartments have a security lock or chain which cannot be opened from outside, even with a staff key, so you'll be quite safe.  1st class couchettes (4 berths per compartment) are rare, they pretty much only exist in on the few remaining French domestic overnight trains .

There's more detailed information about what to expect when travelling by couchette on the Travelling by Couchette or Sleeping-car page .  For more specific information, if your journey involves a nightjet, see the nightjet sleeper train page .  If your journey involves a French domestic Intercité de Nuit overnight train, see the Intercités de Nuit page . a seat

Although it's the cheapest option, travelling overnight in an ordinary seat is a false economy.  It's not recommended however tight your budget, either for comfort or security, unless there's no other option.  There's no lock on the compartment door, and no staff on duty.  Think of it as the equivalent (almost!) of sleeping in a shop doorway.  Always budget for at least the couchette supplement for a comfortable night's journey. 

How early to be at the station?

There are some exceptions .  Major Italian stations now have a simple manual ticket check between concourse and platform circulating area.  In France some major stations have automatic ticket gates when boarding long-distance trains, scan the barcode on your ticket and they open, they're work until 2 minutes before departure.  But it's still nothing like air travel.

Train composition posters

Is there passport control before boarding, how long to allow for connections , it takes just minutes to change trains, if your onward train is a local one, if your onward train is all-reserved, if your onward train is a sleeper, if connecting out of a sleeper.

Example   You're catching the Cologne-Munich sleeper train, due to arrive in Munich at 07:10.  There are onward connections to Salzburg at 07:25 and 09:30, both with cheap fares available which are only valid on whichever specific train you choose.  Online systems and the European Rail Timetable suggest the 07:25.  But is this a safe connection?  No, it isn't.  Even this excellent sleeper train can arrive 20, 40 or 60 minutes late, and it pays to be on the safe side.  In this case I'd recommend booking the 09:30 and having a leisurely breakfast in Munich.

Through ticket or separate tickets?

Recommended connection times when changing stations in paris, travel tips, what happens if you miss a connection, if things go wrong ..., here's what you should know.

With a through ticket the international conditions of carriage (CIV) give you a cast-iron legal entitlement to travel on by later trains if a delay means a missed connection, so tight connections aren't necessarily a problem.

However, through tickets no longer exist for many journeys and you'll often be given separate tickets for each train.  Unfortunately, CIV protection only applies to connections within each ticket, not between tickets.

The good news is that rail staff will usually help you out if there's a delay, as connections between separate tickets and different operators are often covered by the Agreement for Journey Continuation (AJC) or RailTeam/HOTNAT , which I explain below.

If you miss a connection

If you are on a delayed Eurostar and you realise you're going to miss your onward connection, Eurostar train managers carry a HOTNAT / CIV stamp and will endorse your ticket.  They may walk through the train helping people with connections, or may announce that they are available in a particular car.  Similarly, staff on other European trains can usually endorse or stamp your ticket if their train is delayed.

Tip:  If crossing Paris by metro, buy a metro ticket in the Eurostar cafe-bar car to save vital minutes, you might still make your connection.

It's good to be aware of your rights under the international conditions of carriage or CIV and its limitations, and of AJC & HOTNAT .

An example...   I was travelling from London to Bordeaux on a Eurostar running 40 minutes late.  It looked like I would miss my connection in Paris, and naturally my onward ticket was train-specific & non-changeable!  An announcement was made that the train manager was in the bar car to help passengers with connections.  He stamped my ticket and told me to go to the ticket office at Paris Montparnasse to get myself rebooked on a later train.  In the event, I bought a metro ticket from the Eurostar cafe-bar to save time at the metro station (important tip!), I walked to the front of the train as we approached Paris, I had allowed a little more than the recommended minimum 60 minutes to cross Paris in any case, and I made my connection!

If you miss a Eurostar due to a delayed train

If you miss a connection in brussels, your rights:   civ conditions of carriage.

Unfortunately, this CIV missed connection protection only applies within a single contract for carriage, in other words, within one ticket.

If you have a through ticket from A to C changing at B, your connection at B is protected if there's a delay.

But if you have a ticket from A to B and a separate ticket from B to C, your connection at B is not protected by the CIV as this is two separate contracts for carriage and CIV does not apply between contracts.  These days, many journeys have to be made using separate tickets.

For example, there are no through tickets between London and Germany, so if you book a journey from London to Berlin, even as one transaction on one website, you'll get a London-Brussels Eurostar ticket and a separate Brussels-Berlin DB (German Railways) ticket.  This is two separate contracts for carriage and CIV does not protect you for a missed connection in Brussels, between the two tickets.

The CIV were written when through tickets were the norm for almost all European journeys, these days many through journeys have to be made using multiple tickets.  Frankly, the CIV are no longer fit for purpose.  I have spoken at the EU Parliament in Brussels on the subject!

Railteam & HOTNAT

Agreement on journey continuation ( ajc ).

The signatories to the AJC are:

SNCF (French Railways), DB (German Railways), ÖBB (Austrian Railways), Trenitalia (Italian Railways), Renfe (Spanish Railways), SBB (Swiss Federal Railways), BLS (Bern-Lötschberg-Simplon Railway), CD (Czech Railways), SNCB (Belgian Railways), NS (Dutch Railways), CFL (Luxembourg Railways), DSB (Danish Railways), SJ (Swedish Railways), SZ (Slovenian Railways), ZSSK (Slovakian Railways). 

Eurostar signed up to the AJC in 2023, as did MAV (Hungarian Railways), PKP (Polish Railways), HZPP (Croatian Railways) & European Sleeper .

The AJC doesn't currently cover some open-access operators such as Italo, Westbahn, Regiojet, Leo Express.

To qualify for help under the AJC:

Both trains have to be run by signatories to the agreement.

You have to be making an international journey, not a domestic one.

You must have allowed reasonable period of time between trains, meaning at least the minimum applied by official journey planners.

You may need to get proof of the delay from the delayed operator, which they are obliged to give you.

Onward travel has to be on the same operator on the same route.  It is either the station staff or the train manager for the onward train you gives you permission, you should ask at the interchange station.

Remember that the AJC is a commercial agreement between operators, it's not a passenger right you can claim.  So politely remind staff about it if they don't seem to know about it.

A traveller's report

A traveller reports:   "I got to my local station and there were no trains going anywhere!  There had been an emergency that stopped all trains for half an hour or so in the early morning rush hour, just when I needed to get to London for the 8.30am Eurostar to Paris and TGV down to Toulon, with train-specific tickets all the way.  So what do you do?  I just went to the ticket office when I reached London - they had the emergency flagged up on their computer screens and just wrote me a docket/stamped and signed it and on I went.  At St Pancras, I did the same - went to the Eurostar ticket office and they stamped the unused tickets, issued new ones and off I went.   At Gare de Lyon, I went to the ticket office, showed them all the dockets, stamped, stapled and initialled tickets and again they just issued me a ticket for the next train."

Holidays & tours by train

Railbookers ,

Railbookers can custom-make a holiday or short break by train to most European countries for you, with train travel & carefully-chosen hotels, for however long you like, leaving on any date you like.  If you tell them what you want, they'll advise you on the best trains, routes & hotels and sort it all out for you.  They look after their customers well and get a lot of repeat business, so I've no hesitation in recommending them.

UK flag


Byway ( ) is a UK-based eco-holiday firm with a 5-star TrustPilot rating .  If you're nervous about booking train travel yourself, they'll book European trips for you as a package including hotels, starting from any British station.  Byway includes package protection, a 100% Covid refund guarantee, free disruption & re-planning and on-demand WhatsApp support while you're away.

To see pre-configured packages from the UK to various destinations, use the journey planner on their website .

Tip:   First book a one-way outward journey to your destination city on your outward date.  Then change the direction of the arrow and book an inward journey on your return date.  The journey back to the UK can be from a different location if you like, for example if you plan to travel around a bit before your return to the UK.

Alternatively they can build a trip to your requirements, email them or use the contact form .  Please say you heard about them from Seat 61.

General country guidebooks

People sometimes think a guidebook is an unnecessary expense, but it's a tiny fraction of what you're spending on your whole trip.  You will see and understand so much more if you have a decent guidebook.  For the independent traveller, I think the best ones out there are either the Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide.  Both guidebooks are excellent, and you won't regret buying one!

Click the images to buy at or buy in the USA at

H otels in europe, backpacker hostels. :  If you're on a tight budget, don't forget about the backpacker hostels.  Hostelworld offers online booking of dorm beds or ultra-cheap private rooms in backpacker hostels in most European cities at rock-bottom prices.

Car hire comparison:

The award-winning website compares many different car hire companies including Holiday Autos.  That means not only a useful price comparison, but a wider choice of hire and drop off location.

Travel insurance & other tips

Always take out travel insurance.

You should take out travel insurance with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover from a reliable insurer.  It should cover trip cancellation and loss of cash & belongings up to a reasonable limit.  These days, check you're covered for covid-19-related issues, and use an insurer whose cover isn't invalidated by well-meant but excessive Foreign Office travel advice against non-essential travel. An annual policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy with myself.  Don't expect travel insurance to bail you out of every missed connection, see the advice on missed connections here .  Here are some suggested insurers, I get a little commission if you buy through these links, feedback always welcome.

US flag

Get an eSIM with mobile data package

Don't rely on WiFi, download an eSIM with a European mobile data package and stay connected.  Most newer mobile phones can download a virtual SIM including iPhone 11 & later, see device compatibility list .  There's no need to buy a physical SIM card! is a reliable eSIM data retailer with a 4.5 out of 5 Trustpilot rating and a range of packages including unlimited data .

Get a Curve card for foreign travel

Most banks give you a poor exchange rate then add a foreign transaction fee on top.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, £500 per month as I write this.  The money you spend on your Curve card goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.  And you can get a Curve card for free.

How it works:   1. Download the Curve app for iPhone or Android .  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to the UK and most European addresses.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app, you can link up to two cards with the free version of Curve, I link my normal debit card and my normal credit card.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, exactly like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance in your own currency onto whichever debit or credit card is currently selected in the Curve app.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I have a Curve Blue card myself, it means I can buy a coffee on a foreign station on a card without being stung by fees and lousy exchange rates, just by tapping the Curve card on their card reader.  The money goes through Curve to my normal debit card and is taken directly from my account (in fact I have the Curve card set up as payment card on Apple Pay on my iPhone, so can double-click my phone, let it do Face ID then tap the reader with the phone - even easier than getting a card out).  I get a little commission if you sign up to Curve, but I recommend it here because I think it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card , they'll give you £5 cashback through that link.

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  Why you need a VPN

When travelling you may use free public WiFi which is often insecure.  A VPN encrypts your connection so it's always secure, even on unsecured WiFi.  It also means you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geoblocking which a surprising number of websites apply.  See VPNs & why you need one explained .  ExpressVPN is a best buy with a 4.7 out of 5 Trustpilot ranking which I use myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with using this link you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription.  I also get some commission to help support this site.

Carry an Anker powerbank

Tickets, reservations, hotel bookings and Interrail or Eurail passes are often now held on your mobile phone.  You daren't let it run out of power, and you can't always rely on the phone's internal battery or on being near a power outlet.  I always carry an Anker powerbank which can recharge my phone several times over.  Buy from or Buy from .

Touring cities?  Use hill walking shoes!

One of the best things I've done is swap my normal shoes for hill-walking shoes, in my case from Scarpa.  They're intended for hiking across the Pennines not wandering around Florence, but the support and cushioning for hiking works equally well when you're on your feet all day exploring foreign cities.  My feet used to give out first and limit my day, now the rest of me gives up before they do!

Back to home page

Easily plan a European rail trip with Eurail Planner

Eurail Planner

Our free app makes it easy to plan and book everything you need for your trip around Europe.

Plan the best route across Europe and see your eurotrip come to life.

See your day-by-day trip itinerary, so you know when you’ll be in each European city.

Accommodation Search

Instantly search for the best accommodation for the dates and destinations in your plan.

View durations for each rail journey on your route through Europe.

Share your plan with friends and family.

Premium Features

Unlock extra features and exclusive discounts with Eurail Planner Premium - planning your eurotrip has never been simpler.

Track your pass restrictions so you don't break the rules.

Stay in budget with a trip cost estimate that updates as you edit.

Add notes to your plan as you research your trip.

Get exclusive offers with our Premium account.

Multiple Plans

Create & save as many routes as you like.

Most popular Eurail routes

Get inspired by these popular Eurail routes. Each trip can be booked as a standard package or you can customize it and request a quote using our route planner.

Buy your Eurail pass

Whether you want to explore one country, several, or all of Europe there is a Eurail pass to suit your travel needs.

Flexi Global Pass

Flexi Global Pass

Travel in 33 countries with a set number of travel days in a 1-2 month period

Continuous Global Pass

Continuous Global Pass

Unlimited travel across 33 countries for up to 3 months

One Country Pass

One Country Pass

Delve deeper into one of 30 European countries over 1 month

Ready to plan your Eurail trip?


Welcome to Europe by Rail

Exploring Europe by train is easy, economical and enjoyable. Europe by Rail is a guidebook featuring fifty great routes, country information and off-beat diversions. It'll inspire you to explore Europe in a way you've probably never done before.

The 17th edition of Europe by Rail was published on 12 April 2022. The book was reprinted in September 2022 and July 2023.

17th edition Europe by Rail

What people have said about recent editions of the book

The continent of Europe is a vast land that is rich in diversity, history and culture. There are borders of course, yet Europe by Rail teaches us to see borders not as obstacles, but instead as open doors to new and different experiences.

Europe by Rail has been in existence for over a quarter of a century, but with each new edition Nicky and Susanne have continued to refine what is not only the finest guidebook to rail travel across this continent of ours, but also one of the best guides to travel in Europe full stop.

This guide most certainly lives up to its name: it is a most definitive guide, and is packed with all the information that you will need to plan your rail travel across the continent. Do not leave home without it.

Europe by Rail is a book of sheer possibility, a love letter to a continent that also tells you where to buy the ring and how to get to the jeweller's.

Whether you use it vicariously, imagining trips from the comfort of home, or as an essential part of your travelling kit, Europe by Rail is a wonderful publication, proving that we don't have to fly thousands of miles to find adventure when there's so much to see at our doorstep.

If you’re planning to travel by train in Europe, “Europe By Rail” is your one-stop-shop resource that’s filled with everything you need to know.

This fifteenth edition is not just a guide to European train journeys (50 of them) but it’s a cornucopia of useful information about rail travel in general. Even if you don’t intend to travel by rail regularly, there is plenty of in-depth writing to whet your appetite from your armchair.

Gardner and Kries have packed this new edition with invaluable information on European train travel. But they have also managed to capture the joy, excitement, and even romance of train travel in what could have been an otherwise dry reference guide.

If you love train travel as much as we do, this book is more than just a guide for your bookshelf. Snuggle down with it on the sofa, or pull it out of your bag on a crowded commute home–then promise yourself you’ll use it to discover just how magical train travel can be.

Whether you are planning on taking just one or two rail journeys in Europe or will be covering much of the continent onboard a train, Europe by Rail is a must-read. Both rail novices and experienced train travellers will appreciate the tips and information included in the book.

This new edition should appeal in particular to members of the engineering profession, always defined by the two parameters of precision and creativity (or passion if you wish). Europe by Rail is resplendent with both. While brimming with the latest thoroughly verified bits of information, it is written with genuine gusto by the people who are not only extremely fond of travelling, but also happen to be accomplished stylists and writers.

Can you lose yourself happily within the book’s pages, much in the same way that you would lose yourself in a town or a landscape that you are exploring for the first time? With Europe by Rail , the answer is a resounding yes: not only will you get new ideas of where to go, you will also find stuff to make you see familiar places in a fresh perspective.

For anyone planning to embark on a rail holiday in Europe, this guide is an invaluable companion. Even if you’ve travelled extensively by rail across the continent, things change regularly and it’s an easy way to bring yourself up to date. Don’t wait until you leave to buy it. The suggestions for stopovers and detours will help with your planning and you’ll have information at your fingertips about rail passes, supplements, connections and the like.

What comes across more than anything is a genuine love of Europe and a huge enthusiasm for exploring different countries and cultures. Living in Berlin, the authors are at the very heart of Europe, and the routes and diversions they suggest give everyone the chance to sample the excitement of having a whole continent spread out before us.

It’s a wonderful book – I love the idea of arranging a travel guide around rail journeys, rather than rail journeys merely being included as a means of getting from A to B. Over its 512 pages, it includes some 50 rail routes, which between them do an impressive job of covering the wealth of landscapes, cities, cultures and languages this continent has to offer.

Beautifully written, the book is both practical and inspirational.

The book is an alluring combination of evocative writing (“Speed soaks up detail as poppies in the fields of Flanders become a red haze”) and practical advice. Subtitled The Definitive Guide for Independent Travellers , it is also a history of Europe in 50 train routes.

Wenn es ein Buch in die 15. Auflage schafft, dann ist das schon ein großes Lob. Umso mehr, wenn es sich um einen Ratgeber handelt. Und ganz besonders, wenn der sich um etwas so – vermeintlich – Altmodisches wie Bahnreisen dreht.

The most comprehensive European railway guide, this book serves two separate purposes: As an inspiring book to read before you leave on your travels - and an essential guide to constantly refer to when you are actually travelling on the most beautiful trains and railway lines that Europe has to offer.

Last month, Nicky and Susanne’s latest project hit the shelves: the 15th edition of Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide . As both editors and now publishers of the guidebook, Nicky and Susanne have brought their trademark attention to detail to all aspects of the new publication, and as always it is an absolute pleasure to read.

Each chapter is peppered with insights into culture and heritage, and practical information for making the most out of a journey. [...] Europe by Rail is a guidebook that proves both inspirational and informative.

Inside the book

A detailed guide for planning your rail journeys

The guidebook is packed with information you’ll need for planning your train journeys around Europe – be it a meandering trip using Eurail or InterRail or a quick break to just one destination. Detailed route descriptions and tips on fares and ticketing help you navigate your way around Europe’s rail network.

Our passion for rail travel

The authors of Europe by Rail are travel writers and slow travel aficionados. And they are passionate about rail travel. The book captures the essence of each journey. You’ll find facts, ideas and inspiration aplenty in well-penned prose which invites you to hop aboard and discover another side of Europe.

A good read

Whether you are planning a long journey by rail or are an armchair traveller, Europe by Rail has something for everybody. The book records the sheer variety of European life and landscapes – join us as we watch lakes, mountains and townscapes slip by beyond the carriage window.

Take time to explore

Most journeys within Europe are of a length where flying hardly makes sense. Modern and efficient rail services criss-cross the continent. Take time to stop off and explore places along the way. Rediscover the joy of being flexible. If a station looks inviting, why not hop off the train and see what the town has to offer?

The authors

Susanne Kries and Nicky Gardner know their way around Europe by train. The two women, both based in Berlin, are the editors of hidden europe magazine. In their work for Europe by Rail , Nicky and Susanne perpetuate a tradition of writing about rail travel which goes back to Victorian England and the work of Thomas Cook.

European Rail News

Keep up to date with new services with the latest edition of the European Rail Timetable . And see our own European Rail News & Notes, which highlights what’s new around the railways of Europe. European Rail News & Notes is published by the authors of Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide .

Get occasional updates about the brand-new 16th edition of Europe by Rail which was published in mid-October 2019.

By registering you agree with our privacy policy . By default, our e-Newsletter is in html format. If you should prefer to receive a simple text version, just tick the box below.

Get updates on train services, the announcement of new routes and other rail travel related snippets in our European Rail News & Notes section.

european rail travel

  • ERT Newslines June 2024

Stay in touch

european rail travel

Red train moving through Switzerland with mountains visible in the background--views like this are one of the best reasons to travel Europe by train

How to Travel Europe By Train: The Ultimate Guide (+ Tips!)

Beautiful views, comfortable train cars, the bustle of busy platforms, and the thrill of a new adventure: there are a lot of good reasons to travel Europe by train!

But, for those of us who grew up in a place where traveling by train isn’t common, the prospect of train travel in Europe can be as intimidating as it is exciting.

Thanks to traveling Europe extensively for years (including with our dog!) and spending more than a year living in Portugal, we’ve had a chance to appreciate countless train rides through and across Europe.

From the mind-boggling efficiency of Swiss trains to overnight train rides through Eastern Europe (Sofia to Istanbul was a particularly memorable ride) to simple jaunts across Italy, we’ve experienced just about every form of train travel in Europe.

And along the way, we amassed a huge number of European train travel tips !

This train travel guide is a culmination of everything we wish we would have known before we started traveling Europe by train , plus why we think it’s worth a try.

Table of Contents

Who is This Guide to Train Travel in Europe For?

Is train travel in europe right for you, different kinds of train travel in europe, different kinds of european train tickets, how to buy train tickets in europe, how to receive your tickets to travel europe by train, how to travel europe by train: step-by-step trip guide, useful tips for train travel in europe.

Kate Storm waiting for a train on a platform in Luxembourg, as part of a travel Europe by train adventure across Europe

Some links in this post may be affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Please see our disclosure policy for more detail.

If you’re planning an epic, multi-destination trip and are hoping to travel by train through Europe but aren’t already comfortable with train travel on the continent, then this guide to traveling by train across Europe is for you!

We grew up in suburbs in the USA, and until we started traveling internationally in adulthood (4+ years of full-time travel , more than a year living in Lisbon, many trips across Europe, and counting!), we had virtually never taken a train.

W hile that’s certainly not the case for many people around the world, it is for thousands of our readers who grew up in similar environments to us!

If you’re excited to travel Europe by train but are learning the whole process from scratch like we once did, you’re exactly who we wrote this guide for.

While train travel in Europe isn’t exactly the same everywhere–with over 50 countries and therefore over 50 train systems, there are plenty of quirks based on location–this guide to train travel in Europe will give a solid overview that will help you start your travels with confidence.

Kate Storm and Jeremy Storm on a balcony overlooking Positano

Planes, trains, buses, rental cars, river cruises–with plenty of transportation options for getting around Europe, how do you know if train travel is for you?

In this section, we’ll break down the pros and cons of traveling Europe by train to help you decide if it’s the right transportation option for you.

Photo of a pink and white train in a station in Paris. You can see the Eiffel Tower in the top right of the photo. If you follow this 3 day Paris itinerary, you might take this train to Versailles.

Pros of Traveling Europe By Train

Taking a train across europe is a bucket-list-worthy experience..

For most of us who hail from other places, this is the number one reason to book that first train in Europe, right? 

Traveling by train through Europe tops plenty of bucket lists around the world, and for good reason: it’s an incredibly fun way to explore the continent.

On some routes, the train ride is a travel destination in its own right–and even when it’s not, it’s a cultural experience to remember.

Vienna to Cesky Krumlov by Train: View of Cesky Krumlov from Castle Tower

… and can allow for spontaneity.

For some routes, especially those with fixed ticket prices (more on that in another section of this Europe train guide), traveling by train allows you to be spontaneous, coming and going from destinations with much less foresight than is required when taking planes.

Depending on where you are, it can be very scenic.

If you have daydreamed about staring out train windows in Europe as you watch mountains, streams, seas, villages, castles, and vineyards go by, let me tell you… that’s pretty much exactly what it’s like a lot of the time!

Obviously not everywhere on the continent is scenic, but if you travel Europe by train, you’re likely to experience some truly incredible views along the way.

historic red cogwheel train approaching schynige platte with alps in the background, one of the most beautiful places in switzerland vacation

Most train stations are in the center of the city.

In our opinion, this is one of the biggest benefits to train travel in Europe!

W hile most airports (especially airports servicing budget flights) are located far outside the city centers, train stations are generally located right in the heart of the action.

Step outside the train station in Cologne, for example, and you’ll be looking at the cathedral.

In Florence , you’ll arrive less than a 10-minute walk from the Duomo . 

In some places, like in Milan, Antwerp, Porto , and Paris’ Gare de Lyon, the opulent central train station is practically a tourist destination in its own right, so you’ll be exploring the minute you arrive, rather than spending hours getting into the city center from the airport.

sao bento train station, your first glimpse of porto after traveling from lisbon to porto train

No luggage limitations!

No one is going to weigh your luggage or make sure it is only a certain size on a train, so you can bring whatever you like (sports equipment and generally pets included).

Train travel in Europe is generally far more comfortable than flying.

At the end of the day, traveling Europe by train is immensely more comfortable than flying.

There’s less hassle, more comfortable seats, more ease of moving around, often better views, and more control over your environment.

If all else (price, time, etc.) were equal, we’d personally choose to take a train across Europe over a plane any day of the week.

Vienna to Cesky Krumlov: Train Ride

Cons of Traveling by Train Through Europe

It can get pricey..

When you first set out to travel Europe by train, you may assume that it is more affordable than flying–but thanks to a combination of several factors, including incredibly inexpensive budget flight carriers in Europe, that’s actually not the case.

Typically, it’s cheaper to hop on a budget flight between two major European cities than take a train.

The severity of the difference, though, can vary dramatically, and there are lots of tips you can apply to your train travel in Europe to mitigate the cost, which we’ll cover in this blog post.

Venice Grand Canal with gondola paddling across it--a must-see item for your 2 week Italy itinerary!

If you’re traveling long distances, train routes can take a prohibitively long time.

For example, when traveling from Paris to Venice , a route we’ve traveled by train, the train can easily take upwards of 10 hours, while the flight time is under 2 hours.

Now, that doesn’t account for getting to and from the airport, checking luggage, or going through security, all of which increase the amount of time a flight actually takes, but it’s still a large difference.

Train travel in Europe isn’t available everywhere.

As you move further into eastern Europe and the Balkans, train travel becomes much less prevalent (even popular Dubrovnik isn’t connected to the rest of Europe by rail).

A nd, when it does exist, can take longer and be less comfortable than planes or even buses depending on the destination.

View of Split Croatia as seen from Marjan Hill on a sunny day--definitely don't missing visiting Split on your 10 days in Croatia itinerary!

Rail strikes can derail plans to travel Europe by train.

Generally, these are planned in advance, so you’ll know what you’re getting into before arriving, but they can be a bit of a hassle.

W e’ve had trips to both Italy and France impacted by rail strikes in the past.

If you have mobility issues, train travel can be difficult.

Lifting and storing luggage, navigating small staircases and bathrooms, and making your way through crowded train stations can be difficult if you struggle with mobility, so keep that in mind when deciding whether to travel Europe by train.

This is especially true with a short connection–we once had to literally sprint through the station to make a connecting train on time in Germany!

Frecciarosa Train in Italy: Florence to Bologna Train

Traveling Europe by train can be a bit intimidating.

This isn’t a con, exactly, but there’s no doubt that the confusion surrounding train travel in Europe can prevent new visitors to the continent from trying it out, especially if they’re concerned about language barriers or navigating multiple countries.

If that’s your only hesitation, though, we urge you to set those concerns aside.

T raveling Europe by train is an incredibly rewarding experience, and well worth stepping a bit outside of your comfort zone for !

Selfie of Kate Storm and Jeremy Storm on Lover's Bridge in Annecy, one of the best places to visit in Annecy

When discussing train travel in Europe, it’s important to remember that not all trains are created equal, or exist for the same purpose.

Here are a few general train categories to keep in mind as you plan your trip.

Metro/Intra-City Transport

Metros, aka subways (though some do run above ground) are public transportation used by a certain city.

While they are technically trains, metros are their own category entirely and this Europe train guide doesn’t cover them any further.

One Day in Paris: Metro Sign

Commuter Rails/Regional Trains

Commuter rails and regional trains aren’t exactly synonymous, but for the purposes of this guide, they’re similar.

T hese are slower-moving trains used to connect surrounding villages to a major city (for example, Versailles to Paris) or trains that go within a certain country or region (for example, from Siena to Florence in Tuscany).

Most of the tips in this guide to train travel in Europe apply to these trains, but they sometimes have fewer amenities (like snacks/drinks available for purchase, for example) than high-speed or long-distance trains.

jeremy storm at cais do sodre train station in lisbon portugal

High-Speed Trains/Long-Distance Trains

These are trains that cover long distances within a country (for example, from Florence to Venice ) or cross borders (for example, from Paris to Amsterdam).

Since each country runs its own train system (often with a national carrier option and private carrier(s) mixed in), booking a ticket between countries may mean changing train companies at a city near the border.

For example, when we traveled from Paris to Venice by train, we took a French SNCF train from Paris to Turin, Italy, and then boarded an Italian Italo-branded train to travel from Turin to Venice–all booked on the same ticket.

These high-speed and long-distance journeys are the primary focus of this guide on how to travel Europe by train.

Kate Storm in a red dress standing with a caroseul and Sacre Coeur in the background--this is one of the most instagrammable places in Paris!

Tourist Trains

These are trains that, while technically public transportation, are typically used as tourist attractions for sightseeing purposes, and are priced accordingly.

Examples include the Glacier Express or Schniyge Platte in Switzerland, or the Jacobite Steam Train (aka Harry Potter train) in Scotland.

jacobite steam train crossing viaduct in the scottish highlands

Sleeper Trains

Technically, sleeper trains aren’t their own category–they’re just long-distance trains with sleeper carriages in them–but they’re worth calling out separately in this guide to train travel in Europe because they’re particularly interesting for travelers.

Not only are sleeper trains a great way to save on hotel costs for a night of your trip, but they can also be quite the travel adventure in their own right!

Kate Storm and Jeremy Storm selfie on a sleeper train through Europe

Before you start looking into buying train tickets, there are a couple of terms to be familiar with:

First vs. Second Class Tickets

When traveling via train in Europe, you’ll generally have a choice between first and second-class tickets.

Buying a first-class ticket generally comes with slightly larger seats, sometimes the ability to reserve your exact seats when you can’t in second class (both of those facts vary based on the company you travel with), and possibly a small snack like a water bottle and a pack of cookies.

In our earlier travel years, we never used to consider these perks worth the money–but I’ll admit, as we started traveling with more luggage and most importantly, our dog Ranger, we started splurging on first-class more frequently.

The extra space can definitely come in handy if you have more than a suitcase with you!

jeremy storm and ranger storm with luggage in front when traveling around europe by train

Variable vs. Fixed Price Tickets

Variable-price tickets, as the name implies, tend to increase in price the closer your date of travel gets.

T hese tickets are generally used for high-speed trains and long-distance journeys and will be the most common form of ticket you see when traveling between countries by train in Europe.

Fixed-price tickets are more typical for regional (aka “slow”) trains and can be booked at any time–so you can just show up at the station and buy them from a kiosk without issue.

For example: if you travel from Florence to Bologna on a high-speed train, it will take around 30 minutes and that ticket has a variable price.

If you travel on the regional train that takes around an hour, the price is fixed and you can book it at any time.

View of Bologna from above--this beautiful city is worth adding to your list of places to travel Europe by train

When you travel Europe by train, one of the first things you’ll need to get the hang of is exactly how and where to buy European train tickets–and you have plenty of options!

Here are different ways to obtain train tickets in Europe.

Best Things to Do in Budapest: Tram #2

Online (Via a Third-Party Site)

Third-party booking sites are incredibly useful when preparing to travel Europe by train, especially when you’re planning to travel between countries.

We use and recommend Omio , which will allow you to easily compare prices between different routes, show you the most efficient path, and allow you to book trains across Europe with no concerns about language barriers, iffy online translations of national websites, or issues with payment (some company websites struggle to process foreign credit cards).

Omio is a ticket aggregate, and searches multiple companies and routes at once, which makes it very handy for checking train timetables and possible routes as well as for booking tickets!

Search  train routes and tickets prices in Europe today!

Buildings in front of harbor of Cassis France, their reflections are on the water in the bottom half of the photo.

Online (Via the Company Directly)

Alternatively, if you’re looking for the best possible deal, you can book tickets online through direct websites for most countries in Europe.

For example, here are the national train company websites for Italy , France , and Germany .

We tend to book directly whenever we’re traveling domestically in a place we’re very familiar with, like Italy.

Couple standing in from of Colosseum, One Day in Rome -- Rome in a Day

At the Train Station

If you’re traveling a short distance on a regional or commuter rail (like to take a day trip, for example), you can also buy tickets directly at the train station.

If you’re buying train tickets in person, we recommend using the kiosks available whenever possible.

Not only do they tend to have language options that make things much easier, but they also tend to take a fraction of the time of waiting in line to be helped by a person directly.

kate storm sitting on a ledge overlooking a free view of the prague skyline when traveling prague on a budget

With a Train Pass

The final option for booking tickets to travel Europe by train is to do it in one fell swoop with a Eurail pass (for non-European residents) or Interrail pass (essentially the same thing, but for European residents).

Essentially, a Eurail pass will allow you to buy a certain number of train rides (or an unlimited number) in advance, allowing you to be more spontaneous in your travels.

However, there are limitations–for example, some routes still require advance reservations and charge additional fees.

G enerally speaking, the average user will end up spending more on train travel in Europe with a pass than without one.

There are cases where a train pass makes sense, though, so if you’re planning lots of European train travel, especially in Western and parts of Central Europe , be sure to run the numbers to see if a European train pass is right for you!

trentitalia high speed train in milano centrale station, as seen when traveling italy by train

Once you buy your tickets, the next step is to actually receive them!

Here are the three main options.

Most European train tickets these days can be received online and downloaded to your phone. 

When available, this is by far the easiest and quickest way to receive your tickets.

Grote Markt in Bruges Belgium with 4 colorful buildings visible with green awnings out front--an essential stop during your 3 day Belgium itinerary

At the Station

You can also choose to receive your (paper) tickets at the station you’re departing from, either by purchasing them there as mentioned above, or by picking up tickets you bought online.

In most cases, there’s no real reason to pick up paper tickets you bought online as opposed to simply downloading them, but most countries do still have the option.

kate storm boarding a train to sintra from lisbon portugal

If you book tickets to travel Europe by train well in advance of your trip, many countries do also have a home delivery option where they can be mailed to you before you travel.

We took advantage of this for our very first multi-country trip to Europe and had our train tickets for our overnight route from Krakow to Budapest mailed to our then-home in San Antonio.

Honestly, it was complete overkill, even as the novice travelers we were then, and we don’t necessarily recommend doing this–but some places do have the option available.

Kate Storm spinning in front of a clock tower in Riquewihr, one of the best day trips in Alsace!

If you’re confused, concerned, or just slightly intimidated by train travel in Europe but are ready to book your first journey, this section is for you!

Follow these instructions step-by-step, and you’ll travel Europe by train with ease.

Book your ticket.

Generally, for long or inter-country journeys, booking online is the easiest option as we outlined above.

We use and recommend Omio for booking train tickets in Europe.

Shop train tickets across Europe today!

Best Books About Italy: View of Verona

Make sure your ticket is in hand.

This can mean downloaded onto your phone or printed onto a piece of paper in your hand.

E ither option works in most places, but whichever you choose, make sure you have your ticket handy when you board.

Head to the (correct) train station.

Most major European cities are home to more than one train station, so be sure to double and triple-check that you’re going to the right one before you set off.

Kate Storm standing with her back to the camera along the Grand Canal, a must-see during a Florence to Venice day trip! Gondolas are parked along the canal and Kate is wearing a cream sweater.

Find your platform.

Much like in an airport, your first step to finding your train platform will be to check the (often large, sometimes confusing) boards bearing destinations and times.

It’s best to search for your train based on a combination of the train number, company, and departing time– not the destination. 

If your train is continuing past your stop, for example, searching by destination can get very confusing, very quickly.

European trains (and Europe in general) also use the 24-hour clock (so 3:00 PM will be displayed as 15:00, etc), so keep that in mind when looking for your train on the departures board.

Two trains waiting on an empty platform, a common sight during train travel in Europe and when taking a train through Europe

Validate your ticket.

If you have a paper ticket, you’ll need to validate it before you board.

T he kiosks to validate your ticket are generally placed just before you reach the platform, but can sometimes be easy to miss if you’re not looking for them.

(As far as we’re concerned, this hassle is another point in favor of online/downloaded tickets.)

If applicable, find your train car and seat number.

If your train has reserved seats, you’ll need to find the exact train car number and seat number to sit in.

T his is most common on long-distance, high-speed trains.

Vienna to Cesky Krumlov by Train: Train Views

… Or just look for the appropriate class.

If your train has open seating, the only seating concerns will be whether you sit in the 1st or 2nd class.

The “1” or “2” denoting whether it’s a first or second-class train car is generally marked obviously on the side of the train, near or on the door itself, so it’s fairly easy to make sure you’re in the correct place.

Stow your luggage.

In some trains, this will mean storing your luggage in the racks provided at the ends of each train car, in others, it will mean in the racks above the seats, and in still others, there are even places to store bags between the seats.

Keep an eye on what others are doing, but keep in mind that as long as your luggage isn’t in anyone else’s way, there’s generally some flexibility to the process.

kate storm jeremy storm and ranger storm on a train in switzerland

Settle in and enjoy the views.

Once you’ve found your seat and stored your luggage, it’s finally time for the best part of train travel in Europe: kicking back and enjoying watching the world go by.

No matter how many times we ride trains through Europe, we never stop getting a little thrill during this part of the process!

Keep your ticket handy for when the conductor comes by.

At some point, as you travel Europe by train–and it could be 5 minutes into your ride, 5 hours into your ride, or both–a conductor will come by to check your ticket.

Be sure to have your ticket in a convenient place so that you’re ready when this happens!

Things to Do in Orvieto Italy: Torre del Moro View

Listen carefully as you get close to your destination.

As you begin to get close to your destination, it’s time to pay very close attention to the announcements.

Many European cities have train stations that sound very similar to each other, especially to those not familiar with them (for example Roma Tiburtina and Roma Termini), and you’ll want to be certain to exit the train at the correct stop.

O therwise, you might accidentally find yourself deep in the suburbs instead of in the center of the city!

In many places, especially along routes popular with tourists, arrival announcements for each station will be repeated in English, but that’s not a guarantee.

kate storm and jeremy storm taking a selfie on a train across europe

Exit the train quickly and smoothly.

When you reach your stop, be ready to exit immediately–that means luggage in hand and waiting at the end of the train car to exit.

You’ll generally see people start to queue up a few minutes before arrival.

The train stops long enough for everyone to exit comfortably, so you don’t need to push past other people or even hurry if you’re prepared.

However, if you wait until the train stops before even getting your luggage together, well–if your station isn’t the final stop, you might find the train moves on before you have time to get off.

Visiting Versailles from Paris: Train Station

If you have your heart set on traveling Europe by train, plan ahead.

As you plan your Europe itinerary , you’ll likely find that some destinations are better suited for traveling Europe by train than others, and it definitely pays to know which destinations require a train, plane, or bus before arriving in Europe.

Train travel in Europe is generally best suited for certain Western and Central European countries–the further you move into the Balkans and Eastern Europe, the more limited (and, shall we say, adventurous) it becomes.

And, despite being situated essentially as far to the west of Europe as you can get, Spain and Portugal are surprisingly isolated from the perspective of train travel (this is due to having a different size of railroad gauge than other countries in Western Europe).

jeremy and ranger at abrantes portugal train station when traveling europe by train

Distance also plays a key role.

Traveling from Paris to Venice by train is a long but completely doable day, but Paris to Zagreb , not so much–that route is better suited to a plane.

Add in the fact that you’ll want to book your variable-price tickets in advance, and the bottom line is that you should definitely bank on planning at least the most important routes in advance.

Kate Storm in a gray dress standing in Rue de l'Universite in Paris with the Eiffel Tower behind her

Definitely book complex routes for train travel in Europe in advance.

If you’re traveling from Rome to Florence or Madrid to Barcelona, especially if you don’t mind taking a regional/slow train, you can book your train tickets once you already arrive in Europe.

For more complex or longer routes, though, you’ll make things much easier on yourself if you book before you start your trip abroad.

kate storm and ranger storm on the trenord train platform in como italy

Bring snacks and drinks along for the ride.

While most long-distance routes will sell simple food on board like sandwiches, drinks, and pre-packaged snacks, the selection is generally about on par with airplane food, in other words, expensive and unexceptional.

Commuter and regional trains are much less likely to sell food on board.

On long-distance trains, there’s typically a dining car you can visit to make purchases, and on some routes (especially in first class), a restaurant cart will come around offering a few items, similar to a flight attendant.

Better not to worry about it, though: we recommend packing plenty of snacks (or even a full meal) and drinks to bring along, which is completely typical on trains in most places in Europe.

Best Food in Budapest: Strudel

If you have a long train ride ahead, consider packing cards or a game.

Not only will this help entertain you throughout the journey, but it’s also a great way to meet other travelers!

Don’t count on having internet access onboard.

Even if you have a European SIM card and are traveling within the Schengen Zone (where SIM cards are supposed to work across borders), maintaining an internet connection on a European train ride is iffy.

B etween tunnels, remote countryside, border crossings, etc., it’s best not to count on having access.

laptop open to our escape clause on renfe train in spain itinerary

If the train advertises wifi, don’t count on that either–some of them require a local tax ID number or phone number to access.

We’ve found that our best bet for internet access during train travel in Europe is whenever the train briefly stops at a station.

If you have a SIM card that works for that destination, you can usually expect at least a few minutes of connectivity there.

Bike leaning against bridge over a canal in Annecy, France

Make sure you go to the correct train station.

We mentioned this above, but it bears repeating: be very certain that you go to the correct train station when traveling by train through Europe… and that goes for when you get on and when you get off! 

… And show up early.

Some train stations in major cities are enormous, and can almost resemble airports, with 30+ platforms, various levels, and in some cases a mall inside them (like Roma Termini, for example).

If you’re not familiar with the station in question, be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to find your way to the correct platform once you arrive!

Photo of the empty train tracks at a station in Cinque Terre. Some people are standing to the side and waiting on the platform.

If you have an opportunity to take an overnight train, do!

Not only is it a great way to save on the cost of a hotel for the night , but spending the night in a sleeper car can be quite a travel adventure!

(Though in the interest of full disclosure, I have never once gotten what I would call a good night’s sleep on a train. No regrets, though, and we’ll do it again!).

Toilets are plentiful, but their quality is questionable.

In other words, bring some toilet paper (I usually keep a small packet of tissues handy for that purpose) and hand sanitizer. 

Also, wet floors aren’t exactly unheard of, so you might want to stick with close-toed shoes.

Most high-speed trains in Europe have a toilet available in every train car, so you typically won’t need to go far to find one.

train station in lauterbrunnen switzerland as seen from a train with waterfall in the background

If you’re a student and/or under 26, you might qualify for discounts.

Keep that in mind when booking your train tickets for Europe, and if you do book a discounted fare, be sure to keep your ID handy (it’ll likely come in handy in many other places during your trip, too).

Keep in mind that some under-26 discounts are only available to EU residents, so be sure to verify that before counting on them if you aren’t European.

You can generally bring dogs (and cats) with you on trains in Europe!

This is a bit beyond the scope of this blog post, but given that we have several photos of Ranger in here, I’m sure at least a few readers are curious!

The vast majority of trains in Europe allow well-behaved companion animals on board, with varying requirements and costs (generally either free or the price of a child) based on the animal’s size, whether it’s confined in a carrier, etc.

It’s best to check the expectations for each route in advance, but with a little planning and flexibility, your furry friends are generally welcome.

Ranger is quite the traveler and has visited 8 countries and counting with us, many of them by train!

ranger storm sleeping on a train in germany

Keep an eye on social norms.

Cultural expectations around eating, talking loudly, and storing your luggage can and will vary depending on where your train travel in Europe takes you.

B e sure to keep an eye on what everyone else is doing to ensure you’re not inadvertently committing a faux pas !

For example, if you take a train, say, in Italy and then later in Austria as you travel Europe by train, you’ll likely notice a huge difference in the noise level on the train!

[convertkit form=3127238]

Photo of a red train in Switzerland with mountains in the background, black and red text on a white background reads "how to travel europe by train the ultimate guide"

About Kate Storm

Image of the author, Kate Storm

In May 2016, I left my suburban life in the USA and became a full-time traveler. Since then, I have visited 50+ countries on 5 continents and lived in Portugal, developing a special love of traveling in Europe (especially Italy) along the way. Today, along with my husband Jeremy and dog Ranger, I’m working toward my eventual goal of splitting my life between Europe and the USA.

64 thoughts on “How to Travel Europe By Train: The Ultimate Guide (+ Tips!)”

We are senior citizens planning a trip to Italy and surrounding areas in September 2022. Looking at some train travel, multiple cities for sight seeing. We like the smaller, picturesque, historical cities. What advice can you offer?

I definitely recommend searching “Italy” on our search bar (top right of the site on desktop, part of the menu on mobile). Italy is one of our favorites and we have (literally) about 100 posts about it!

For small, picturesque, historic cities, Siena, Venice (it is pretty small!), and Verona come to mind. Florence, too–surprisingly small in some ways!

For even smaller hilltop villages like Montepulciano, etc, in Tuscany, be aware that many of the train stations aren’t in the town center, so you’ll likely want to catch a taxi in many of them to avoid hauling luggage up a hill.

Two years ago we had a small villa in a very small town in Italy. We trained to a new place everyday. It was funned and easy. We took the local bus into the next target town, bought our tickets at the station and took off for the day. We went to Florence, Pizza, and several smaller towns. We are mature seniors and had no trouble getting around. Only a couple of people spoke english in a small town, but, we managed easily.

Your comments encourage me to locate a home base in Italy and take a train or bus to the surrounding suburbs etc. I’m no spring chicken nor my husband but we get around easily. Thank you

Thanks for the helpful information. Appreciate it!

My boyfriend and I just booked our first train tickets in Europe thanks to you!!! I’m so happy we found your blog. We’re going to France and Spain this summer!

Ahhh that is wonderful to hear! Have a fantastic time!

My wife and I, both 70 are taking a cruise from Budapest to Passau and plan on taking trains to Birmingham England from Passau. I’ m planning about 5 stops. First Venice then Tirano, St. Moritz, Sion, Strasbourg and finally Birmingham. I plan on a Eurrail pass. do you have any advice, help or suggestion. Thanks

Hi Wayne! If you’re planning on an Eurail pass, my best advice is to research your routes, dates, and times in advance–many popular routes will still require advance reservations even with a pass.

Kate, my wife and I are planning our first cruise in Europe, and are thinking about taking the train from Barcelona to Rome (cruise departure). Your blog was a great overview. My question has to do with ability to get off and on a subsequent train, for day visits on the way. Is switching covered or individually arranged ahead of time, and is it a good or bad idea for novice mostly monolingual travelers to Europe? Advice? Thanks,(Chuck)

If you book a ticket from Barcelona to Rome, your ticket will be good for that specific train/departure only, so you can’t get off and back on at various stops. If you want to stop places along the way, you’ll need to book individual tickets between each destination you plan to visit.

If you have your heart set on that, look into an Eurail pass–it does what you describe, however, it can get confusing (some routes still require advance reservations) and will usually be more expensive than booking tickets individually.

Traveling by train is absolutely doable as a novice traveler, but be sure to be careful when you’re booking your tickets (to ensure they’re the right dates/times/train stations you expect), and pay close attention to the stops to ensure you don’t miss yours.

Another option, if you’re traveling during the summer and want to get from Barcelona to Rome quickly without flying, would be to take a ferry to Rome and then train to a few places around Italy from there.

Hope you guys have a great trip!

My family is looking to travel from Lille to Amsterdam. My question is: when we depart out train that originated in Lille and transfer to a new train in Brussels, will we need to go through some form of customs before we board the train for Amsterdam? I just want to get an idea of how much time to leave for connecting trains.

Hi Matt! No customs required–all of those countries are part of the EU Schengen Zone, so moving between them via train is generally as seamless as road-tripping between US states.

And, is 33 minutes to connect from one train to another a lot of time? We have never done this type of thing before so I’m not sure if that is cutting it too close

33 minutes should be okay! Definitely move with purpose to find your next platform once you arrive, but you shouldn’t be in a huge hurry as long as everything is on time.

Kate- I am considering coming to Europe early for my Christmas river cruise heading out of Brussels. I was thinking of taking the train from the Brussels airport to Koln to see their markets and explore, and then doing a day train up to Dusseldorf to see their Christmas markets. It looks like about a 2 hour train ride on Thalys to Koln and then only about 30 minutes from Koln on to Dusseldorf. I will then take the train back to Brussels for my riverboat cruise. Does this sound feasible?

As long as the timetables work in your favor, I don’t see why not! Germany and Belgium are both great countries for exploring by train.

Hello Kate, We are looking to visit Italy for the first time in December/2022, I was looking in the train tours, visiting 4 cities (Rome, Florence,Venice & Naples). Your thoughts on train tours? Thank

Hi Sharon! I’m not sure what you mean by tour–if you mean a guided trip, they can of course be very fun with the right group, but I wouldn’t say you need one for this route.

All of those cities are very simple to visit independently by train, and we have taken trains to and from all of them many times (I’m actually typing this on a train to Venice).

Hi Kate, my husband and I are planning to fly in to Italy and travel by train to the following places: 1) Milan 2) Switzerland 3) Vienna 4) Prague 5) Paris

May I know if these places can be connected by train. If yes which train will you recommend, please. We are actually thinking about 15-20 days to cover these areas. As it’s our first Europe trip, do you think it’s sufficient and is there any place along the way that you would encourage to go. Thank you.

Yes, those are all excellent destinations to visit by train, so you’re good to go there. As far as specific trains, you’ll need to pull up the individual routes to check (we recommend Omio for this, especially with cross-border trains).

That’s definitely too many places for 15 days, though, and still pushing it at 20. I’d recommend trimming the itinerary a bit if you can (or adding on extra days, of course!).

Hi there This was so helpful. My husband and I are going to Amsterdamin September and then 3 nights in Bruges. All us booked but I’m overwhelmed but the trains websites. Omio is the easiest but I’m still leary. Is it legit and a decent safe way to book trains? We are only going to Belgium. Then two days to the countryside in The Netherlands which we will just grab a regional train. Everyone is telling us to book the train to Bruges. Any helpful advice would be great. We would go to Antwerp and take an IC train to Bruges an hour later,as my husband does have hip and knee problems. Thanks in advance.

I understand, it’s a lot to take on the first few times!

We use Omio regularly, as do many people we know, it’s perfectly legitimate.

The Antwerp train station will be a beautiful place to rest for an hour. It’s absolutely stunning, especially the front foyer, and often pops up on lists of the best things to see in the city!

Hi Kate, My husband and I will be traveling from Prague to cities in Austria and Germany by train next month. We have used trains a few times in Europe before, but it was pre Covid. It looks like most Covid restrictions have been dropped, but I wondered if you have to show Covid vaccination cards on the trains?

Thank You, Jaymie

I’m always hesitant to answer questions like this because I feel like I’ll be summoning disaster with how quickly things can change, LOL.

But at the moment, no, you won’t need your vaccination proof in either place as far as I know.

Life is pretty 2019 these days when it comes to the logistics of traveling around Europe as a visitor, though a handful of places still require masks on public transport (I think Vienna is one of them, but again–things change!).

This is so helpful, but I’m striking out with trains from Naples to Rome? It says that there aren’t any? Why would they list it as an option if they don’t travel to there? Also, is there a way to preview how long the train rides are to decide if we want to travel to certain cities? Cannot find any train tables. I find the Omio and Eurail sites to be difficult to navigate and I can’t get enough information to plan! 🙁 Does it make sense to buy a eurail pass first and then research times and etas? Any help is appreciated!

Trains from Naples to Rome definitely exist! It’s possible you’re looking too far in advance to book the tickets–on Omio right now, it looks like I can purchase Naples to Rome tickets up to about 6 months out.

When you search for a specific route on Omio, Trenitalia, etc, it’ll show you how long the train is and how many changes there are, if any, much like searching for a flight.

We don’t recommend using the Google tool for this, as it tends to default to how to get somewhere if you leave at that second, which can be confusing and normally involves a more complicated route than you need.

Personally, we don’t generally find Eurail passes to be worth it in terms of cost-savings for most travelers, but in terms of research, you’ll be working with the same information either way. 🙂

Hope that helps! It can be a bit confusing at first, but if you try practicing by looking at dates sooner than when you actually plan to travel, I think you’ll find the information you’re looking for.

Thank you for taking the time to write all that useful information. It is so much appreciated by many of us! 🙂

Like many of your readers, we are (two young adults) planning to visit Europe for the first time this upcoming May. We are currently looking at: Landing in the morning in Prague, spend 1 or 2 nights, then Vienna, one night, leave following morning for Bratislava (this one is a maybe, it’s so close!) OR Vienna to Venice. Spend 1-2 nights, then Zurich, and finally Munich, before we make it back to Prague to catch our returning flight. We are looking at 9 days from the morning we land. 🥴 We figured it would be more efficient to travel in a circle, as some destinations -like Paris- will be out this time around. 🙁

Thoughts on that? I will look into Omni regarding trains, but our plan is to travel only by train, if possible.

I know that’s a lot of questions, but THANK YOU so much for your help! 😊

Thanks so much, Al! So glad to be helpful. 🙂

You definitely have the right idea with traveling in a circle, though I definitely recommend trimming some destinations!

With 9 days, I’d suggest no more than 3 base cities (and that’s pushing it), and you can add a day trip or two from there if you like.

I know it’s SO tempting to add more places (I have this problem constantly myself lol) but you’ll have much more fun with a bit of time to explore each place!

I’m not sure what your priorities are or what your budget is, but based on the cities you listed, I’d cut Zurich (Switzerland is amazing, but you don’t have time) and Bratislava. Ideally, I’d suggest cutting one more city as well.

If it were my trip, personally, I’d do a Prague – Venice – Munich triangle, and potentially day trip to Neuschwanstein Castle or somewhere else in the Bavarian Alps with one of the days in Munich. That’s just personal preference, though!

You can definitely do all the destinations you listed by train, no issue there at all. 🙂

That recommendation sounds amazing. The two big ones are Prague (#1!) and Venice, but really hoping to do Munich as well.

I will look into the Bavarian Alps, as I am not familiar with them 🙂

Thanks again. Really enjoy reading through your content! 😊

If you love mountains and/or castles, you’ll definitely love them!

Enjoy some Czech beer for us 🙂

Hi, we are doing Europe by train in June. Is there a way to determine: a. which direction the train(s) are going, so we can face forward? b. Which side is considered the right side (vs left side) for best views when recommended? Thanks for your perspective.

Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut way to determine which way trains are facing, especially because they often turn around during the route, depending on how they pull into/out of various stations. On long journeys, it’s not uncommon to find yourself facing forward part of the time and backward part of the time.

If you’re starting from the beginning of the line, you can sometimes tell which way you’ll be facing at the beginning based on the route, but not always.

The same goes for the views–for very specific routes, you can sometimes get personalized recommendations from others who have traveled the route (especially for particularly scenic ones), but there’s no simple solution to figuring it out beyond just recommendations.

It’d certainly be easier if that were the case!

Hi Kate, Really enjoying your posts, photos, and appreciate the helpful advice. I am planning a trip in Sept/Oct to visit Scotland for a week before traveling in southern Germany and Austria. What would you recommend about getting from Scotland/London to Koln, Munich or Frankfurt? Is there a good train route to take? Or is this a case where flights make more (economic or time) sense? Thanks for any pointers!

That’s definitely a route that is better served by flight, both from an economic and time perspective! 🙂

Is there something I am missing about Omio, the booking site that you recommend?

My wife and I are moving to Lyon in April and plan to go to Amsterdam in May. I went on the Omio site just to get a sense of what was available from Lyon (Gare Part Dieu) to Amsterdam (Centraal) on a random date (I picked May 9) and the site told me it could not find any trains between these places. But on the Rail Europe site, it showed a slew of trains available throughout the day.

I am confused.

I am too, I’m not sure why it’s not coming up! I just did the search myself and played around with dates, destinations, etc. Paris – Amsterdam, for example, seems to be pulling up just fine.

Could be as simple as a bug, but I just shot Omio an email asking for clarification.

Hi Kate I am Josh from KL Malaysia looking forward for europe trip in september 2023. I would like to start trip from berlin to budapest for 15 to 17 to go about it by using eurorail?

Eurail has a website with a planning tool that can help you sketch out your journey.

Generally, you’ll buy either a set number of travel days within a given time period (like 7 days to be used in a month) or an unlimited pass.

Many routes do still require advance reservations (with additional fees), so be sure to check each route individually so you don’t miss anything!

Hi! I would love to travel as comfortably with my dog as you have, seeing from the pictures. I have a couple of questions: 1) what’s the name brand of that pet carrier. Looks perfect for mine. 2) Could you post tips on hoe to travel with your pet successfully.

Thank you for your content!

Yes, absolutely–with a catch (if you’re in the US). We bought the bag on Amazon Spain when living in Portugal and don’t know of an equivalent here. But this is the link:

Here’s Ranger’s backpack that he gets carried in as well (size large):

He absolutely loves both–gets so excited when we get his bags out, and climbs right in when we get onboard!

Traveling by train in Europe with a dog is usually pretty simple, but you’ll always want to look up requirements for the specific country/train company (some require dogs not in a carrier to pay a half-fare or child’s ticket, etc).

If your dog is very small (like a yorkie or similar) they’re usually free, though again, be sure to check in advance.

I have it on my list to write a whole blog post on this topic eventually, but I hope that helps get you started! 🙂

Just wanted to say thank for you for such amazing content. We are starting to plan a 5 week trip to Europe for Summer 2024 with our 4 kids and your site and recommendations are beyond helpful.

Thank you so much, Megan! That’s wonderful to hear. 🙂 Hope you guys have an incredible trip!

Hi, planning a trip to Europe with the family. Have been to Italy, Spain, Portugal, France and UK so we are looking for something different. Like Berlin, Prague and Vienna or Amsterdam, Berlin and Brussels. Love to get your thoughts on these routes and would you recommend taking the train between these cities? Or any other 3 cities you recommend we do over 10 days.

Sounds like a very fun trip! All of the cities you mentioned are definitely doable by train, but Berlin-Prague-Vienna is more cohesive than Amsterdam-Berlin-Brussels (I also personally would put a couple of dozen other cities in the region ahead of Brussels, though it definitely has things to offer!).

Since it seems like Berlin is a priority for you, I’d recommend using that as your anchor and spanning out from there.

A few other places that could make sense, if you want to add more options to your list, could be Krakow, Budapest, or Bratislava.

If you want to start in Berlin and include Amsterdam, you might look into Hamburg, Cologne, or Bruges.

You could also head south from Berlin, and do a Berlin-Munich-Switzerland (Zurich or Lucerne if you’re looking for cities) route.

Really, the possibilities are endless, so it just comes down to the cities that call to you the most!

We are seniors, experienced travellers but novice on trains. We have 3 weeks to visit Paris, Prague, Vienna, Bern, Marseilles, Barcelona, and Lisbon. What suggestions can you offer us Thanks

My first recommendation would be to trim a city or two–3 days per city is a very fast pace to keep up for 3 weeks!

Lisbon and Barcelona are of course the biggest geographic outliers. Lisbon is a non-starter as far as train travel to the rest of these cities is concerned–realistically, it’ll make more sense to fly to and from there.

Barcelona is a bit tricky, since Spanish and Portuguese trains are on a different rail gauge than the rest of the countries on your list. You can take a high-speed train from Barcelona to Paris, but getting from Barcelona to Marseilles via train is much more challenging than you’d think it would be based on a map.

The rest of the cities you mentioned are very well-connected by train, so you shouldn’t have any issues there. 🙂

Really informative site you have here!

I’m from Asia and planning to visit Europe for the first time in Oct 2023. I’ll likely start the tour from London and have about 10 days, then will fly home from Heathrow Airport London. I’m really into trains and would love your advice on what some destinations would be possible. I’ve never been to Europe so anything is fine with me. 🙂 Thank you

Honestly, the number of options is so overwhelming that you’re going to want to narrow it down–a lot!

Assuming you plan to hop over to mainland Europe (as opposed to heading north to Scotland, for example), Paris and Amsterdam are both great jumping-off points connected to London by train.

From either city, you can then reach dozens of cities within several countries in a day’s worth of train travel (or less).

Consider taking a look at places that interest you in France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, The Netherlands, and Belgium–just to name a few!

If you want to peruse some sample itineraries, we have several in this post:

Hope you have a fantastic trip!

Thanks for all the info contained within this blog. We are planning for summer 2024,a 2-week tour of Europe starting and finishing in the UK. How many stops would you recommend? Where would you suggest?, need to combine, beach, sightseeing and something in the Alpes? Ive got in mind Uk – South of France – Italy- Budapest-Krakow – Germany(or similar)-UK Now for the tricky bit, we are planning to do this with around 20 Explorer scouts! Any tips for travelling in groups? Can you also recommend a great website for hostels Thanks in advance

Sounds like quite the trip! 20 scouts–you guys have your work cut out for you, but I’m sure they’ll love it. 🙂 Can’t offer much personal insight in that direction myself, but I commend you guys for taking it on.

With only 2 weeks, I’d recommend 3 stops, with an additional day trip or two to add on more destinations. Sticking with the UK – South of France – Italy might work best in your case. Germany and Switzerland would also work as potential substitutes as they’re geographically close (depending on where you go).

We go into a lot more detail on putting together a 2-week itinerary in this guide:

As far as booking lodging goes, we tend to book all of ours through Booking dot com these days. For hostels in particular, Hostelworld is also popular, though we have rarely used it ourselves. Depending on how old your scouts are you might want to double-check any age requirements for dorm stays.

We are a couple in our 60’s who have travelled by train in Italy and Japan .We are travelling to Greece for 2 weeks then flying to Hamburg.From here we are going to travel straight to Berlin(3 nights),Amsterdam(3 nights),Paris (5 nights),Interlarken,Switzerland (3 nights) then to Munich(4 nights). I have just started researching the best way to purchase rail tickets either a Eurail pass or point to point on Omio.Considering our itinerary what do you recommend?I have read that a Eurail pass is easier than point to point bookings but may be more costly.

Thanks for your blog,very informative.

Hi Francine,

In our experience, Eurail passes tend to be a bit more expensive for most travelers. Part of the reason for this is that many popular routes still require advance reservations that require you to commit to a date and often pay an additional reservation fee.

We have used an Eurail pass in the past, but these days, we always choose to book point-to-point journeys.

However, the only way to know for sure about your route in particular is to plan your trip out via Eurail (be sure to double-check what routes require reservations) and as a point-to-point trip and compare prices. Every trip is different, and since the prices for high-speed trains change depending on when you book them, there’s no way to know for certain.

If you’ve been comfortable traveling by train in other countries in the past, I wouldn’t say the ease of using an Eurail pass is worth the probable extra cost, especially with how simple it is to book train tickets online these days. It does depend on the traveler, though!

Thanks for the information Travelling to krakow then Prague Budapest and Croatia. Have 2 month. Would like to travel by train How far in advance do you need to book train tickets as I want to do it leisurely and not book to far in advance. Also what other country’s/cities do you recommend Thank you so much Betty

For most routes in that area, booking as you go (a few days to a week or so in advance) is just fine, as long as you’re a bit flexible. Exceptions can include night trains and traveling over holidays, so keep that in mind!

Keep in mind that train travel in Croatia is much less expansive than you might think–Dubrovnik doesn’t even have a train station! You can use some train routes, like Zagreb to Split, but plan on adding in buses and/or rental cars (plus ferries, of course) depending on where you want to go in Croatia.

With 2 months to travel from Krakow to Croatia, you might also consider stops in Austria (Vienna is right along your route), Slovakia (Bratislava is very easy to reach) and Slovenia. Depending on how direct you want to travel, Bosnia and Herzegovina could fit in as well.

That barely scratches the surface of the possibilities, but hopefully it gives you some ideas!

Hi! My wife and I love to travel (Between the two of us we have done Italy, Fiji, Australia and many others). We are planning on the F1 races in Spielberg, Austria next June. Thinking about the train from Vienna to Barcelona after and wondering if the ride (about a day) is worth the time? The flight is about 5 hours. We had fun on the train in Italy (Rome to Venice) We will likely leave Vienna the Mon or Tues after and have another 10 days. What do you think about Barcelona and Madrid? Do both? Or one over the other? Thanks in advance!

The distance between Vienna and Barcelona is far enough that unless the idea of a night train and a few train changes sounds like a fun adventure, I’d recommend flying! Basically as a travel experience it can work, but as a basic form of transportation, they’re a bit too far apart for the logistics to make sense.

As far as Barcelona and Madrid, both are wonderful, but they’re very different. Barcelona wins on whimsical architecture and access to the sea. Madrid wins on stately art museums and for having a more laid-back vibe. We enjoy both cities, but Madrid is our personal favorite of the two (though we are in the minority with that opinion!).

If you have time to spend a few days in each, they’re definitely both worth experiencing.

Hi! Thanks for the reply….sounds like flying is the way to go….we will have 4 days each in Madrid/Barcelona so should be able to get the flavors of both. Love your blog!

Thanks, Greg! Enjoy Austria and Spain! 🙂

Hi Kate! I just found your blog while planning my first Europe trip… I’m so excited I have actual tears! I promised myself traveling around/to Europe would be something I accomplish by the time I turn 25. This train travel blog has given me so much needed information as when I originally started planning this trip a few years ago my original plan was by train. I will be combing through your blog site to read as much as I can and support you how I can.

My plan is to start in southern Portugal, through southern Spain, southern France, into Italy. I need to do more research to see if this much in a 2 week time span is even feasible. And, it looks like I may be better off taking a bus in Western Europe. This has been my one hurdle in actually going. If I’m going to go, I’m going to visit multiple countries… but the navigation between countries is the most fearful part for me. I will be using your blog to help me plan and prepare.

All this to say… I’m so glad I found your blog!! Thank you for all of your wonderful information.

Your comment brings a huge smile to my face! I remember planning our first trip so clearly at about the same age (I was 23 on our first-ever trip to Europe and 24 on our first multi-country European backpacking trip) and I can definitely say it was nothing short of life changing. 🙂

All of the places you mentioned are among our favorites in the world! And reading between the lines, it sounds like you may have a preference for coastal areas, which all of those areas have in spades.

One small snag is that you have chosen some of the hardest places to travel between countries by train in western Europe, namely Portugal and Spain. Getting between major cities by train is no issue within each country, but the two aren’t very well-connected by train to each other, and the only train route to France from Spain leaves from Barcelona. There’s a long history as to why, but basically the train rail gauges in the Iberian peninsula are different than elsewhere.

However, don’t worry! There are plenty of solutions. 🙂 Buses are definitely a great option, especially for getting between places like the Algarve and Seville, etc. There are local buses, but also check out Flixbus, which is very popular with travelers and easy to use (we’ve used it many times ourselves). Also, flying is a surprisingly affordable option–Ryanair, Easyjet, etc. have tons of routes in these areas and are frequently way cheaper than traveling by train. Blablacar–basically Uber for traveling long distances–is also an option, though not one we have lots of personal experience with.

Finally, don’t forget about ferries! They can be surprisingly affordable, especially in Spain and southern Italy. We took a ferry from Barcelona to Rome and found it very memorable with amazing views:

As I always like to tell people, getting on that first plane and starting your trip is the hardest part. After that, everything falls into place. 🙂

Hi Kate, Your blog has been super informative and helpful! We are planning a family trip to Europe this May with our 3 teenagers. Our goal is to do Rome (4 nights), Venice (2 nights), Salzburg (3 nights) and Munich (4-5 nights) in 15 days. Planning to fly into Rome and fly out of Munich or Frankfurt (Dallas is home), and travel by train from city to city. Are we taking on too much? Do you recommend using the fast train from Rome to Venice? Really want to take the train thru the Alps from Venice to Salzburg, but is it going to be much more expensive than flying? I’m assuming I need to book that leg of the train trip asap. Again, great job on the blog! It has made me very excited for our trip!

That’s great to hear, thank you!

That sounds like a good pace for a trip–if anything, 5 nights seems slightly long in Munich, though very doable with a day trip or two built in (and there are plenty of amazing ones in Bavaria!).

Taking the fast train from Rome to Venice would absolutely be our preference–it’s the fastest way to travel between the two cities by far.

Same for Venice to Salzburg (it’s a lovely train ride!). but yes, it can be more expensive than flying depending on when you book and how good of a flight deal you get. It’s much more comfortable regardless, though (not traveling to and from the airports is a big benefit in its own right). Depending on what train company you travel with, expect tickets to be available for purchase anywhere from 3-6 months in advance. I’d start watching earlier, though, just looking at more recent dates, to get a feel for what prices to expect.

Thank you for taking the time to put all of these great information together. Really appreciate it. So our plan for next year is as follow (12 days):

Spain: 1 day Madrid 1day Sevilla 1 day Barcelona

from Barcelona, take fast train to Italy 1 day Rome 1 day Naples 1 day Milan

from Milan take fast train to Switzerland:

What places (areas) would you recommend visiting in Switzerland? We would like countryside, small towns. I heard Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries to visit, so anything where we can enjoy nice scenery but not the most expensive areas. Also, is it feasible getting around in trains between these cities/countries? Thank you in advance!

Leave a Comment Cancel reply

european rail travel

Get our Rail Planner app

Plan your trip, get extra discounts, and show your Pass as you go.

european rail travel

Our favourite spring routes

Celebrate spring with these 7 off-the-beaten-path train routes

european rail travel

All about seat reservations

Everything you need to know about booking your seats

european rail travel

Alternatives to Busy Routes

Travel between popular European cities without seat reservations

european rail travel

Through our Chatbot in the bottom right corner.

european rail travel

Ask the Community

Browse questions from fellow Interrail travellers, or ask your own!

Passes guide

  • Order overview
  • Reservations overview
  • My Trips & Travelers
  • {{translatedTraveler}} {{#promotional}} {{currencySign}} {{standardPrice}} {{/promotional}} {{quantity}}x {{currencySign}} {{finalPrice}}
  • Child {{childPasses}}x FREE
  • {{translatedPassType}}
  • {{translatedValidityPeriodDescription}}
  • {{translatedClass}}
  • Remove Pass(es)
  • {{variant.localizedTravelPackDescription}} {{quantity}}x Free
  • {{variant.localizedPassUpgradeDescription}} {{quantity}}x {{currency}} {{price}}
  • Your order will arrive by {{expectedDeliveryDate}} 1 x {{currency}} {{price}}

Your cart is empty

european rail travel

Explore Europe by train with an Interrail Pass

Which Interrail Pass should you choose?

european rail travel

Travel in 2 or more countries

Interrail Global Pass

Travel by train to over 30,000 destinations in 33 countries  with our classic rail Pass. Choose this for multi-country trips or if you haven't decided on your destination.

european rail travel

Travel in 1 country

Interrail One Country Pass

Only got one country on your mind? Explore as much of it as you like with an Interrail One Country Pass. You'll feel like a local in no time!

Most popular Interrail Passes

Global Pass

5 travel days

  • Travel on any 5 days within 1 month
  • Perfect for visiting 4–6 destinations
  • 85% refundable if you change your mind

7 travel days

  • Travel on any 7 days within 1 month
  • Perfect for visiting 6-8 destinations

What's included in the Pass?

Hop on and off most trains in 33 countries  just by showing your Pass.

Free and instant delivery to your device if you choose mobile Pass.

Download the free Rail Planner app  to plan your trip, store your Pass and show your ticket as you go.

An outbound and inbound travel day , to leave and return to your country of residence using the Pass.

Get extra benefits and discounts as you travel  with our 100+ partners across Europe.

Interrail has flexible  exchange and return policies  that let you book with confidence.

Seat reservations. You'll need to pay an extra fee to reserve a seat or sleeper on high-speed trains, night trains and popular routes . Find out more about reservations here .

Other public transport. Interrail only covers trains. Trams, buses, rental bikes and metros are not covered by your Pass. Though you can get a discount in some cities .

Accommodation. You'll need to book and pay for this separately, though you can get a discount with our accommodation partners .

Change of currency

You cannot change the currency once you have a Pass in your cart. Remove the Pass, and then change the currency on the website header.

Rail Tour Guide


Enquire now

Your Name *

Your Email *

Your Telephone Number *

Your Message *

I consent to Rail Tour Guide using my personal information in accordance with the Privacy Policy .

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

european rail travel

Explore Europe by Rail

european rail travel

European Rail Travel and Holidays

Discover Europe by rail with RailTourGuide and explore one of the most comprehensive rail networks in the world. Whether you’re looking for European Rail Tickets, Rail Passes for Europe or a carefully designed European rail itinerary, we can help!

5 reasons why you should explore Europe by rail

Luxury Travel – European train services are unrecognisable from what we know in the UK, with an impressive system of high speed networks, on board restaurants and more space; luxury comes as standard.

City to City – European rail services go direct to the city you want to visit, no transfer fees, no time wasted, just arrive happy and relaxed.

Amazing Scenery – The interconnected rail networks take you through some of the most wonderful and picturesque landscapes on the continent, through dramatic mountainous areas, magnificent coastlines and beautiful cities. Seeing Europe by rail is a must.

Save on Accommodation – Overnight sleeper trains are the best way to travel long distances in Europe and they save you the need to book accommodation then travel the next day. Board in one country and wake up refreshed in another. There’s no other experience like it, sleeper trains are a fantastic way to travel and see multiple countries in a short space of time.

Remarkably Affordable – Utilising RailTourGuide’s expert knowledge, you can travel knowing you have made the most of your budget and received the best possible package. European travel is more affordable than you may think.

Quick, Easy & Efficient – Airport transfers don’t always have to be done by road; rail is a fantastic way of quickly and easily getting to the airport and arriving in good time, missing traffic jams and congestion.

Privacy Overview

The 10 best sleeper-train journeys to take in Europe in 2024

Tom Hall

Oct 19, 2023 • 8 min read

european rail travel

After a night on the Caledonian Sleeper, you’ll wake up in the Scottish Highlands © Lucy Knott Photography

A few years ago, competition from low-cost airlines and high-speed railways looked like they would spell the end for sleeper trains, which were increasingly starting to look like relics.

But an increased interest in slow travel and concern about the environmental impact of flying (driven partly by the Swedish concept of  flygskam,  or “flight shame,” movement) have boosted demand for sleeper trains. In a remarkable reversal of fortunes, operators across Europe – including several new entrants – are bringing routes back, in some cases for the first time in generations, and establishing new services, often across borders. 

Overnight trains do more than save on a night’s accommodation. They’re an adventure in themselves, recreating the romance of a bygone era as they transport travelers, families and business people across the continent under the cloak of darkness. 

Most services offer a mixture of sleeper compartments with room for two or four passengers; six-person, dormitory-style couchettes; and cars with standard seats. On some trains, however, private compartments equipped with showers and innovative capsule-style berths are becoming available on trains with new or refurbished carriages. This enhances the sense that the next generation of night trains has arrived.


Munich, Germany to La Spezia, Italy

Frequency: daily except Saturday Approximate duration: 11 hours

Nightjet ’s Munich –to– La Spezia service is one of many night routes that offer the only direct connection between their start and finish points. Passengers can board an early-evening train south from Bavarian city’s vast Hauptbanhof station aiming for Austria , northeast Italy and onward, via Genoa (another great stop-off option), to the Ligurian coast . If everything’s on time – which, it should be noted, is not a given on night services, especially those crossing borders and picking up carriages from other services – then you could beat the crowds to the Cinque Terre ’s walking trails (accessed by a local train from La Spezia). Or you could just settle in to this underrated city for a late breakfast and marvel at the city’s art-nouveau architecture, best explored by strolling the stairways that rise uphill from the waterfront.


Hamburg to Stockholm

Frequency: nightly  Approximate duration: 14 hours

This Swedish Railways (SJ)–operated service, one of the darlings of the new European night scene , has grown in popularity and scope since its launch. 

During the summer of 2023, the SJ Euronight to and from Stockholm extended to start and finish in Berlin  – a change now being made permanent. Still, travelers should not miss the chance to explore the lively maritime city of Hamburg  – plus, starting the journey here makes more sense if you’re connecting from points further south and west. From Hamburg, the night service north heads into Denmark and makes an early hours crossing of the Öresund Bridge to Malmö . 

Beyond the southern tip of Sweden , morning views of Nordic forests and lakes root travelers in their surroundings until the train pulls into Stockholm Central station, located in the middle of the tangle of waterways and islands in the heart of Sweden’s capital.

Private operator Snälltåget also operates seasonal night services on this route. This train is a good alternative if your timings or availability don’t work out on the SJ train, or if you want to try out Snälltåget ’s highly regarded restaurant coach.  

Zagreb aerial view, Croatia capital town.

Zurich to Zagreb

Frequency: daily Approximate duration: 15 hours

A convenient route between Switzerland ’s largest city and the compact, beautiful Croatian capital , this Euronight services crosses five countries over approximately 15 hours. It’s worth taking this journey in the summer, as it’s one of Europe’s most scenic routes, passing through Austria and Slovenia  – both countries where you’re hard-pressed to find an unattractive railway line. It also passes (without stopping) through the tiny Alpine principality of Liechtenstein . You can get a taste of this train by riding as far as Ljubljana in Slovenia, though this misses a lovely stretch of track running alongside the Sava River between there and the border.


Berlin to Brussels

Frequency: six nights a week from December 2023 (though with different operators and routes; see below) Approximate duration: 11.5 hours

The much-heralded European Sleeper service from Brussels to Berlin has proved an invaluable addition to the night-train scene, and the company behind it has plans to run the train through to Prague starting in 2024. With stops in Antwerp , Rotterdam and Amsterdam , this thrice-weekly train reinstated a route phased out in 2008. Starting December, it will be joined by a Nightjet service making the same journey on three alternate days, though taking a different route via Liège and heading down the Rhine to Mannheim . (This train runs as part of the existing Brussels-to-Vienna Nightjet.) Brussels makes for a fast journey from London  – and, since there’s no need in Brussels to change stations (as in Paris), it’s an ideal starting point for UK -based travelers looking to snooze their way deeper into Europe.


London to Fort William, Scotland

Frequency: daily except Saturday Approximate duration: 13.5 hours

Great Britain has only two sleeper trains – and both have recently benefited from major upgrades in what many see as a vote of confidence in the country’s overnight services. The Night Riviera runs southwest from London’s Paddington Station and keeps going until it runs out of rails – and land – at Penzance in Cornwall . But it’s the Caledonian Sleeper that gets Britons most excited . This legendary train leaves Euston Station each night and, via a series of carriage shuffles unnoticed by the snoozing passenger, reaches Edinburgh , Inverness , Aberdeen ,  Fort William and points in between. 

The through service to Fort William is the most spectacular leg, offering a night on the rails and a morning crossing wonderful Highland scenery before depositing fresh-faced passengers at the foot of the path up Ben Nevis, the country’s highest peak.


Budapest to Bucharest

Frequency: daily Approximate duration: 17 hours

One of Europe’s most beautiful stations, Budapest ’s Keleti terminal is the starting point for this fantastic overnight adventure. There are in fact three sleepers that ply this route, but the timing of the Ister is arguably the most optimal: it departs shortly after 7pm and arrives at Bucharest ’s Gara de Nord in mid-morning, meaning passport control takes place around midnight. The big benefit of the lazy morning on the train is the chance to enjoy the superb scenery of the section of the Carpathian Mountains before crossing the plains on toward the capital. From Bucharest there’s a direct summer sleeper connection onward to Istanbul , another railway odyssey to the edge of Europe .


Trondheim to Bodo

Frequency: daily Approximate duration: 10 hours

Under normal circumstances, the jaw-dropping views offered by any Norwegian rail journey would make a night train a wasted opportunity. But there are two factors that argue for taking the 10-hour Trondheim -to- Bodø service. First, if you do this journey during the summer you needn’t miss anything – the sun will hardly set. Second, Norwegian trains are very pleasant places to hang out for a while, and a berth on a night train is an excellent deal in a country where bargains are few and far between.


Rome to Venice 

Frequency: daily Approximate duration: 7 hours

A quiet star of Europe’s night train scene, Italy’s InterCityNotte (ICN) services crisscross the country, offering several unmissable routes. While trains heading from Rome to Sicily garner attention thanks to the novelty of the ferry that carries carriages across the Strait of Messina, there are reasons to head from the capital in the opposite direction.

A Trieste -bound sleeper hauls out of Roma Termini each evening and ambles through the romantic regions of Lazio , Umbria and Tuscany . Snoozing travelers may be awakened by some shunting as northbound carriages are moved off at Mestre, before an unforgettable crossing of the lagoon causeway to Venice itself. Any bleary eyes should be swiftly jolted into life by the sunshine of a Venetian dawn, the first sight of the city with pretty much no one else around, and a strong espresso or two.


Paris to Latour de Carol

Frequency: nightly (departure times vary) Approximate duration: 12 hours

Having axed all but a handful of Intercités trains de nuit  in 2016, SNCF (French National Railway Company) has spent the past few years plotting to revive some of the canceled services. One survivor has been the service from Paris to Latour de Carol , deep in the Pyrenees . Four- and six-berth couchettes and a seated carriage make the journey south, passing through Limoges , Toulouse and the foothills of the Pyrenees to arrive at the border station of Latour de Carol.

From here, it’s possible to continue, via a suburban train, to the heart of Barcelona in around three hours, offering an epic alternative to the TGV service from Paris to the Catalan city via Montpellier and the French Mediterranean coast. The scenic, narrow-gauge Petit Train Jaune also leaves from Latour de Carol, offering a dramatic mountain train ride with connections on to Perpignan .


Innsbruck to Cologne 

Frequency: daily Approximate duration: 11.5 hours

There are a multitude of reasons to hop aboard this excellent Nightjet sleeper service, particularly in this direction. First, Innsbruck ’s beautiful location in the Tyrolean Alps makes it a rewarding spot to explore pre-voyage, with hiking trails in summer and ski runs in winter. Second – and excitingly for true train geeks – Nightjet services offer unique double-decker sleeper compartments, with deluxe berths on the upper level. Third, if you can rouse yourself early, these trains travel through the early morning along the beautiful Rhine Valley Line, passing time-worn castles and vast vineyards on their way north to Cologne .

As if all that weren’t enough, Cologne’s cathedral , right next to the railway station, is one of the great icons of Europe. Watching its twin spires grow in stature as you chug towards the city is a fitting finale to this magnificent journey.

Booking information

The resurgence in night trains’ popularity means booking ahead is essential. Depending on where you’re traveling, berths go on sale between 30 and 180 days in advance; it’s best to book as far ahead as possible. Seat61 , and national train operators can guide you through the booking process.

This article was first published Sep 22, 2018 and updated Oct 19, 2023.

Explore related stories

A view of the Berlin at sunrise showing the iconic TV tower, rooftops, and the river Spree

Sustainable Travel

Jun 11, 2024 • 4 min read

A report from the overnight train from Brussels to Berlin, a key route in Europe’s new sleeper-train renaissance.

european rail travel

May 18, 2024 • 7 min read

european rail travel

May 13, 2024 • 7 min read

Woman taking photo with a smartphone of Jungfrau while riding in train

Jan 16, 2024 • 8 min read

european rail travel

Jan 2, 2024 • 11 min read


Nov 1, 2023 • 4 min read

european rail travel

Jul 5, 2023 • 5 min read

Panoramic view of the center of Stockholm. The metro train moving the Slussen district. Amazing view of the Sodermalm  island, The City Hall,  Riddarholmen in Gamla Stan. Text on road signs "Old Town"; Shutterstock ID 1722718684; your: Brian Healy; gl: 65

Dec 9, 2022 • 9 min read

The Cathedral (Dom), TV Tower (Clonius), the Musical Dome, Kölner Philharmonie, the river Rhine, Hohenzollern Bridge, Museum Ludwig and Old Town are featured beyond a colourful sky.

Apr 28, 2022 • 2 min read

Photo of a young woman riding on a train, enjoying her trip while looking through the window

Oct 21, 2021 • 2 min read

National Geographic content straight to your inbox—sign up for our popular newsletters here

european rail travel

What you need to know about European travel this summer

With headlines warning of everything from flight delays to wildfires, summer travel is changing. Here’s how to make sure your trip this summer goes smoothly.

Record numbers of tourists are expected to visit Europe this summer. In the first three months of 2024, the number of international arrivals has already risen by 7.2% compared to 2019’s pre-pandemic figures, according to the European Travel Commission , with 120 million international tourists visiting the region in that time. Yet while this is welcome news for the tourism industry, some challenges remain for visitors, especially during the summer’s busy peak season, when potential flight delays, high temperatures, new laws and major events could all impact travel. Here’s what you need to know to make sure your European trip this summer goes smoothly.

1. What you need to know about flight disruptions

Increased passenger numbers, staff shortages and strikes meant there were 106.7 million delayed air passengers in Europe during peak summer months last year. More than 700,000 passengers were affected over the August bank holiday in the UK alone following a technical meltdown at air traffic control. This year, EasyJet has had to cancel over 100 flights from Paris due to a no-fly zone during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. Ryanair has also cut flights from its summer schedule after the delivery of several of its new Boeing aircraft was delayed. If you’re due to fly, visit the airport’s website for the latest information, and check social media for real-time updates from other travellers. Remember that you may be owed compensation if you face disruption, but rules vary, so take out a travel insurance policy as soon as you book flights.

( What should you do if your flight is delayed or cancelled? )

2. Why you should consider travelling by train

Keep your carbon footprint low, avoid airport hassle and see even more of Europe this summer by taking advantage of a whole host of new and expanded routes across the continent. New services include a high-speed route connecting Barcelona to Madrid and Seville , a sleeper train from Brussels to Prague , a daily train between Vilnius and Riga , a relaunched night train between Paris and Nice and a sleeper train from Rome to the Dolomites . Following the success of Germany’s €49 unlimited monthly travel pass last year, France has also introduced its own nationwide rail pass for the same price. However, this is only valid for those under 27 and excludes high-speed TGV trains and travel in the greater Paris region of Ile-de-France.

( 6 of the world’s best coastal rail journeys .)

european rail travel

3. What to do you if you’re affected by wildfires

Following unprecedented high temperatures, wildfires swept through some of Europe’s most popular tourist spots last summer, scorching parts of Tenerife, mainland Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy. This year, protective measures have already been put in place that aim to prevent a repeat of the disaster, with Greece banning all outdoor fires from April and increasing investment in fire detection and water tankers. To ensure you’re protected if the worst happens, arrange travel insurance at the time of booking, then keep an eye on official travel advisories for up-to-date information. If you’re affected by wildfires or any other natural disasters when you’re away, follow the advice of the emergency services and evacuate when instructed, then contact your tour operator or airline for help getting home.

( What to do if you’re caught in a disaster while travelling. )

4. How big events could disrupt your travel  

From Taylor Swift’s tour across Europe to the UEFA European Championship in Germany, Europe is limbering up for a summer of major cultural and sporting events. The Olympic Games in Paris are expected to attract three million more visitors than usual . This is likely to mean a greater demand for accommodation, higher prices, crowded public transport, unexpected road closures and even increased security checks in response to the heightened risk of terrorist attacks. If your holiday does coincide with an event, try to explore beyond the city itself, visit nearby tourist attractions that could be quieter than normal, or just enjoy the inevitable citywide buzz surrounding the main event.

( How to explore Paris this summer beyond the Olympics. )

5. Why you should think about overcrowding

While many destinations welcome a return to pre-pandemic levels of tourism, others are actively trying to deter visitors. In Barcelona , tour groups have been capped at 20 people, while entrance to Athens’ Acropolis is now limited to 20,000 tourists each day. Dubrovnik has already cut the number of souvenir stands by 80%, while thousands attended an anti-tourism protest in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in April. All are concerned that overcrowding leads to skyrocketing prices for locals and causes environmental damage, with increased plastic pollution, erosion of heritage sites and traffic congestion. Consider less-visited destinations instead, swapping Santorini for Folegandros an hour’s ferry ride away, Dubrovnik for Šibenik with its medieval centre and fortress, or Barcelona for the Spanish seaside city of Valencia.

( What’s the problem with overtourism? )

european rail travel

6. How to deal with heatwaves

2023 was the hottest year on record globally, with temperatures in Europe above average for 11 months of the year. The Mediterranean was the worst area affected, with temperatures soaring above 40°C across Italy, Spain, Turkey, Cyprus and Greece. Consider travelling outside the hottest months, between July and September, or visiting destinations further north such as Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Lithuania or Ireland which should escape the most intense heat. If temperatures do climb, wear high-factor SPF, avoid being outside in the middle of the day and wear light-coloured clothes made from breathable materials. Avoid alcohol and drink plenty of water, and keep a close eye on vulnerable people, including young children and the elderly.

7. How to avoid being caught out by local laws and taxes

Do your research before travelling to make sure you don’t fall foul of new laws. A €5 tax for day-trippers was introduced in Venice in April, for example, and will be enforced on selected dates until July. It can be paid online in advance, and those staying overnight are exempt but do still need to register. A second tourist tax of €1 to €5 per night is already applicable to overnight stays and should be paid at your hotel. Be aware that some Airbnbs ask that this is paid in cash. Other new rules in parts of Mallorca and Ibiza ban drinking on the street and prevent shops selling alcohol at night, though you will still be able to buy drinks in bars and restaurants.

Related Topics


You May Also Like

european rail travel

How to explore Paris this summer beyond the Olympics

european rail travel

Would you travel by flying taxi? Here's everything you need to know

Introducing nat geo kids book bundle.

european rail travel

Peak fun: what's new in the Alps this summer, from trains to trails

european rail travel

3 European cities of innovation and what they're doing to build a better future

european rail travel

The best packing cubes to save space and keep you organized

european rail travel

The ultimate Canary Islands itinerary: 48 hours in Northern Lanzarote

european rail travel

How new flights to Akureyri are opening up northern Iceland

  • Environment
  • Paid Content

History & Culture

  • History Magazine
  • History & Culture
  • Mind, Body, Wonder
  • Destination Guide
  • Terms of Use
  • Privacy Policy
  • Your US State Privacy Rights
  • Children's Online Privacy Policy
  • Interest-Based Ads
  • About Nielsen Measurement
  • Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information
  • Nat Geo Home
  • Attend a Live Event
  • Book a Trip
  • Inspire Your Kids
  • Shop Nat Geo
  • Visit the D.C. Museum
  • Learn About Our Impact
  • Support Our Mission
  • Advertise With Us
  • Customer Service
  • Renew Subscription
  • Manage Your Subscription
  • Work at Nat Geo
  • Sign Up for Our Newsletters
  • Contribute to Protect the Planet

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society Copyright © 2015-2024 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved

Rail Europe for agents

Book European train tickets for your customers, the easy way.


One-stop shop for European trains

Our product offers focus on European train operators such as SNCF, SBB, Eurostar, Thalys, Trenitalia, Italo, DB, Renfe, OUIGO Spain and National Rail, and railpasses including the Swiss Travel Pass and Eurail Passes.

Easily access and book train journeys

Rail Europe offers a wide range of partnership opportunities and distribution technologies to suit every business model: API, trade website, white label, search API, affiliation.

Our benefits


Benefit from Rail Europe’s expertise and unique distribution tool to provide European rail products to your customers

As a distributor, you can check availabilities and prices in real time, make bookings, issue tickets yourself and process aftersales

Come and discover the Rail Europe offers.

european rail travel

Get our Rail Planner app

Plan your trip, get extra discounts, and show your Pass as you go.

european rail travel

Our favorite spring routes

Celebrate spring with these 7 off-the-beaten-path train routes

european rail travel

All about seat reservations

Everything you need to know about booking your seats

european rail travel

Alternatives to Busy Routes

Travel between popular European cities without seat reservations

european rail travel

Through our Chatbot in the bottom right corner.

european rail travel

Ask the Community

Browse questions from fellow Eurail travellers, or ask your own!

  • Plan your trip

Trains in Europe

  • Order overview
  • Reservations overview
  • My Trips & Travelers
  • {{translatedTraveler}} {{#promotional}} {{currencySign}} {{standardPrice}} {{/promotional}} {{quantity}}x {{currencySign}} {{finalPrice}}
  • Child {{childPasses}}x FREE
  • {{translatedPassType}}
  • {{translatedValidityPeriodDescription}}
  • {{translatedClass}}
  • Remove Pass(es)
  • {{variant.localizedTravelPackDescription}} {{quantity}}x Free
  • {{variant.localizedPassUpgradeDescription}} {{quantity}}x {{currency}} {{price}}
  • Your order will arrive by {{expectedDeliveryDate}} 1 x {{currency}} {{price}}

Your cart is empty

european rail travel

Trains are everywhere in Europe. Some trains travel at high speed across the continent, while others move around leisurely, either by day or night. Find out about the different European trains like sleeper trains, chocolate trains, high-speed trains and the provided facilities for a clear idea of what train travel in Europe is all about!


High-speed trains

High-speed trains are the fastest way to get around Europe. You can cover large distances in great luxury, relaxing in a comfortable chair or enjoying a bite to eat in the dining car.

More about high-speed trains →


Night trains

Night trains are a great way to get around Europe. Save precious travel time by moving between cities while you sleep and choose the accommodation that best fits you and your travel budget. 

More about night trains →


Scenic trains

Europe is a beautiful continent, but some parts of it are just exceptionally beautiful. You can find scenic trains in these parts, which will carry you through amazing mountain scenery and past picturesque coastlines.

More about scenic trains →


Regional trains

Regional trains will take you anywhere in Europe, from the smallest village to the largest capital. These trains usually don't need a reservation and are a great way to discover every little corner of Europe.

More about regional trains →


With your Eurail Pass, you can get a discount on many ferries in Europe. Take a break from trains and travel between countries over water. You can also use ferries to visit stunning islands off the coast of Spain, Italy, or Greece.

More about ferries  →


Railway carriers

A Eurail Pass is valid with many European railway companies. Aside from that, there are also participating ferry companies and public transport companies. Follow the link below to see the full list of participating companies.

More about railway carriers →

Amsterdam main train station

Train stations

European train stations are usually centrally located and easy to reach. There are often good facilities at the station and taxis, buses, and car rentals are never far away. If you're a little lost, let the train staff point you to your platform!

Read all about Europe's train stations

The Eurail Pass

With a single Eurail rail Pass, you can travel in up to 33 countries, hopping off along the way to experience Europe's most fascinating cities, monuments, and breathtaking scenery. Travel at your own pace and know that there is the perfect Eurail Pass for every European vacation!

The adventure begins with the train journey itself, which is why so many people choose to explore Europe by rail. Are you ready to choose the Eurail Pass for your own European adventure?

Check out the Eurail Passes

Join the Community!

Our Community is full of great questions and answers from fellow Eurail travellers. Keep up-to-date with itineraries, tips and questions and answers from fellow Eurailers.

Check out our Community →

Change of currency

You cannot change the currency once you have a Pass in your cart. Remove the Pass, and then change the currency on the website header.

Boosting passenger preference for rail

COVID-19 had a profound impact on people and industries across the world, with lasting changes to the way many people work and travel. Passenger rail was significantly affected, as at the onset of the pandemic operators had to contend with a sudden, steep drop in ridership. A new report, Boosting passenger preference for rail, by the International Union of Railways (UIC) in a partnership with McKinsey & Company, found that depending on the region, passenger numbers declined by between 40 and 100 percent, with a global average of around 70 percent. As the pandemic-related restrictions were lifted, operators put measures in place to restore rail services and adjust their offerings to suit customer’s changing needs, which aided recovery—although passenger rail traffic had not fully recovered at the beginning of 2022 when the research for the report took place, particularly in North America and Western Europe.

Even as the rail industry works to overcome the effects of the pandemic, several trends indicate that operators could not only restore passenger numbers to pre-COVID-19 levels, but increase rail’s modal share. Doing so could meet consumer expectations and help governments and countries around the world to achieve sustainability goals. For instance, consumers have become more environmentally conscious and rail offers a more sustainable option than traveling by car or plane. Over the next ten years, given new mobility offerings, car modal share for short to medium distances is expected to decrease by between 20 and 70 percent, with variations across regions—freeing up modal share that could be captured by rail. 1 McKinsey Center for Future Mobility research, 2021.

Furthermore, several regions are focusing on modernizing rail infrastructure and decarbonizing transport. The European Green Deal, a wide-ranging stimulus package focused on sustainability, is estimated to include €87.5 billion in investment related to rail infrastructure. 2 Global Infrastructure Outlook, data extracted in July 2021; “ITF Transport Outlook 2021,” OECD, 2021. Likewise, in the United States, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) allocates $66 billion in funding and grants towards corridor development, rail track modernization, and safety improvement. 3 “The bipartisan infrastructure deal,” White House fact sheet, November 6, 2021. And in Africa, an integrated high-speed train network is at the heart of the “Agenda 2063” as one of 15 flagship projects. 4 “Agenda 2063 The Africa we want: First ten-year implementation plan 2013-2023,” The African Union Commission, September 2015.

Given these global trends, rail has the strength to position itself as one of the preferred choices of transportation of the future, helping to solve many longstanding challenges in passenger transport: sustainability, speed, and volume. Rail’s strengths include the ability to transport large volumes of people in an efficient manner, at a faster speed than car travel (if high speed or at peak hours when roads are congested), with enhanced travel comfort for leisure and business, and at lower energy consumption and hence lower carbon emissions per passenger.

That said, in many regions of the world, rail faces various challenges that act as barriers to increased ridership, including pricing schemes that are perceived to be expensive, a lack of reliability and punctuality, insufficient density, and a lack of convenience from an end-to-end journey perspective.

Boosting passenger preference for rail examines passenger rail’s current status, the reasons why passengers may or may not choose rail as a transport option, and the shifts in consumer behavior that have affected rail passenger numbers—and will likely continue to do so in the future. It also details the measures that operators have taken to restore rail travel to pre-pandemic levels. The report concludes with a set of concrete levers railway operators can pull to recover passengers lost during the pandemic, attract new passengers, and develop rail to be a viable alternative to road and air transport.

Would you like to learn more about our Travel, Logistics & Infrastructure Practice ?

Customer expectations: price is key.

The report finds that price is a core decision criterion for consumers when choosing rail over other means of transport. Other important factors are largely related to overall time of travel—especially regarding frequency, and speed—as well as reliability of service.

Research draws on a representative sample of customers across nine countries in three continents (Europe, Asia and North America) who were asked about their reasons for deciding to travel by rail. The results show that price, safety, reliability, and convenience remain the main drivers for passengers when choosing their mode of transport (exhibit). In all investigated regions except China, people report price as their key criterion for choosing a mode of travel.

Sustainability-related criteria seem to play only a minor role for passengers in their travel selection, though with notable differences across regions—between 3 percent of customers (Japan) and 19 percent (China) indicated that this aspect is one of their top-three decision criteria. When asked about their sustainability behavior, 87 percent of customers expressed an interest in sustainable rail offerings, but only 12 percent would be willing to pay a premium for sustainable products or services.

Long-distance travelers assign less importance to price (26 percent compared to 34 percent for medium and 32 percent for short-distance travel) and are more interested in convenience factors like travel time and the number of changes required on the journey.

Given these customer expectations today, rail operators could focus on their core offerings— including convenience, reliability, and speed, as well as price and safety—to increase passenger numbers and grow rail’s modal share. Railway infrastructure expansions and ongoing investments for maintenance and repair can help to support this.

Three horizons that can boost rail modal share

Rail operators, together with infrastructure managers and policy makers, can consider various measures across the following three horizons to grow passenger preference for rail and establish rail as the means of transportation of the future.

Horizon 1—Restore rail travel to pre-COVID 19 levels

Operators around the world have taken steps to aid demand recovery by re-establishing service availability and reliability, adapting offerings to suit new customer needs, and making these changes known to customers through clear communication. These same levers could be important in their continuing efforts to restore rail travel to pre-pandemic levels.

Operators could ensure that current customer expectations are met or exceeded, especially in terms of reliability and safety, and adjust offerings to meet changed demand and habits caused in particular by the increase in hybrid working. For instance, offerings such as modified train schedules and discounted tickets for off-peak travel could enhance the appeal of rail travel for commuters. Another approach could be to launch new offerings in response to the resurgence of local leisure travel, for instance through discounted fares or special passes for weekend travel, or to popular getaway destinations.

Furthermore, communication through ads and other media channels with customers is critical in creating awareness around existing rail services, and in fostering the desire to travel again. It can also be a key touch point for alleviating passengers’ health-related concerns by showing what hygiene measures are in place.

Safe, smart, and green: Boosting European passenger rail's modal share

Safe, smart, and green: Boosting European passenger rail’s modal share

Horizon 2—grow passenger rail by improving operations.

Operators can build upon their existing networks to attract new passengers and enhance the travel experience. This can be achieved through a number of methods, such as tapping into new passenger segments with new offerings and differentiated pricing, and upgrading and enhancing both the train and station passenger experience. Trains could be re-positioned as multifunctional spaces, going beyond the traditional role of only offering seats to bridge distances. Measures to achieve this could include expanding onboard services such as digital connectivity, or providing luggage concierge, pet transportation, and food-ordering services.

Operators could also focus efforts on improving the end-to-end journey and offer a comprehensive mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) experience, for instance through mobile apps. Several operators are working within their travel ecosystems to provide one single pass so passengers can access multiple means of transport such as cars or e-bikes as well as trains.

Horizon 3—Grow passenger rail by structural measures

In the long term, operators could ramp up investment in infrastructure and service excellence. Doing so will likely require investment in high-density, high-speed and high-frequency networks. This involves increasing capacity and level of service through capital investments that include rolling stock, infrastructure, and digital technologies.

Around the world, operators are upgrading their fleets. Rolling stock investments have been projected to increase across all geographies at a rate of 6 percent a year between 2019 and 2024. 5 “Worldwide market for railway industries,” SCI, 2016; “Prospects for market developments of infrastructure and rolling stock 2020,” SCI Verkehr. New rolling stock increases capacity, creates higher customer satisfaction, improves sustainability, and offers the opportunity to modernize interiors, add connectivity, and improve services.

Density, speed, and frequency are three factors that position train travel as an efficient and convenient passenger service—and the case for high density, high speed, and high frequency has already been made numerous times around the world. In France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Japan, the introduction of high-speed rail massively increased rail modal share, replacing cars for shorter distances and planes for longer distances. High-speed connections are a key success factor as journey time critically impacts rail modal share when compared to air travel.

Furthermore, as urbanization leads to increased populations within cities and city agglomerations, rail is an efficient means to relieve traffic congestion from individual mobility in high density regions, and aid sustainability. Rail generates four to six times less CO 2 emissions than traveling by internal combustion engine cars, and even generates less than electric vehicles. When evaluated against air transportation, rail is a more sustainable option, producing about 10 to 15 times less CO 2 per passenger. 6 “ Safe, smart, and green: Boosting European passenger rail’s modal share ,” McKinsey, October 28, 2021.

All stakeholders may need to collaborate in finding ways to reap the benefits that rail can offer—for customers, operators, and nations. For instance, operators and policy makers could develop an integrated perspective on the business model for rail and its role in alleviating traffic congestion, aiding sustainability, and contributing to economic growth.

Opportunities exist for rail operators to restore passenger rail to pre-COVID-19 levels and gain modal share. Rail operators that focus on restoring and growing the passenger base, providing better services, and investing in infrastructure have potential to succeed. Such efforts are becoming necessary in the face of climate change, and expanding populations that need access to safe, reliable, and affordable transport.

Raphaëlle Chapuis is an engagement manager in McKinsey’s Montréal office, Théo Delporte is a knowledge specialist in the Paris office, where Carsten Lotz is a partner.

The authors wish to thank Moritz Motyka, and Lynda Liu for their contributions to this article.

Explore a career with us

Related articles.

Safe, smart, and green: Boosting European passenger rail's modal share


  1. Complete Guide To Train Travel In Europe

    european rail travel

  2. The Beginners Guide To Train Travel In Europe

    european rail travel

  3. 23 scenic rail journeys in Europe for your bucket list in 2020

    european rail travel

  4. The Best European Train Trips

    european rail travel

  5. Eurorail 101: How to Travel Europe by Rail

    european rail travel

  6. 7 Best European Train Tours

    european rail travel


  1. Empower Your Travel Agency with Rail Europe: Upcoming Webinar

  2. Final 2017/2018 Alpen Express to Bludenz leaving Innsbruck Hbf

  3. Eurostar Experience

  4. European Rail Shutle 1 with Dieselloc Class 66,May 27,2007!!

  5. Swiss by Trains at Euro Railways

  6. CityNighLine Night Train by Euro Railways


  1. Discover Europe by Train

    Eurail offers flexible and sustainable rail travel across 33 countries in Europe. Find your pass, plan your route, reserve your seats, and activate your pass online or on the app.

  2. European Railway Map

    Plan your Eurail adventure with this interactive map that shows train routes and travel times between 33 European countries. Find out how to book seat reservations, download the map, and explore popular routes and itineraries.

  3. Train tickets in Europe

    Find and book train tickets across Europe with Rail Europe, the official agent for rail and bus operators. Compare prices, timetables and maps for popular journeys and destinations.


    Learn how to plan, book and enjoy train journeys across Europe with this comprehensive website. Find the best routes, times, fares and tips for travelling by train from London to almost anywhere in Europe.

  5. Easily plan a European rail trip with Eurail Planner

    Eurail Planner helps you plan your trip across 33 European countries with a Eurail pass. You can map your route, see your itinerary, search for accommodation, and get exclusive discounts and offers.

  6. Trains in Europe

    Traveling by train in Europe. It's easy to travel on trains in Europe. The continent's well-connected rail network means you can travel on high-speed trains as well as regional and sleeper trains. Whether you've got your sights set on Europe's iconic landmarks, lazy days on the beach or hiking in the mountains, hopping on a train in ...

  7. Europe by Rail

    Explore Europe by train with this guidebook featuring fifty great routes, country information and off-beat diversions. Find out the best ways to plan, book and enjoy your rail journeys across Europe.

  8. Eurail Global Pass

    Try the Eurail Global Pass offering train travel in 33 different countries. Once you've selected your pass, its price will depend on the class of service selected, passenger type, and the number of rail travel days. 2. Reserve your seats. Traveling on local and regional trains provides you with an opportunity to freely explore.

  9. Europe Train Map

    Our interactive train map of Europe highlights some of the most popular rail routes across Spain, France, Switzerland, Germany and Italy. Click on each of the routes in our map below to find journey times and where to book your tickets. *Routes are subject to change throughout the year. If a route you had in mind isn't featured on our map ...

  10. European Rail Passes

    The Eurail Pass is for non-EU residents. Choose between the Eurail One Country Pass or the Eurail Global Pass for unlimited train travel to 40,000 destinations in 33 European countries. On the other hand, if you're a citizen or permanent resident of the EU*, then an Interrail Pass is for you.

  11. Travel through Europe by Train

    Interrail offers flexible and sustainable rail passes for up to 33 countries in Europe. Plan your route, find your pass, reserve your seats and activate your pass to start your adventure by train.

  12. Eurail Passes

    Free and instant delivery to your device if you choose mobile Pass. Download the free Rail Planner app to plan your trip, store your Pass and show your ticket as you go. Get extra benefits and discounts as you travel with our 100+ partners across Europe. Eurail has flexible exchange and return policies that let you book with confidence.

  13. How to Travel Europe By Train: The Ultimate Guide (+ Tips!)

    Learn everything you need to know about train travel in Europe, from the pros and cons to the different kinds of tickets and trains. This guide covers how to buy, receive, and use your tickets, as well as useful tips for your trip.

  14. Passes guide: Explore Europe by rail

    Download the free Rail Planner app to plan your trip, store your Pass and show your ticket as you go. An outbound and inbound travel day, to leave and return to your country of residence using the Pass. Get extra benefits and discounts as you travel with our 100+ partners across Europe. Interrail has flexible exchange and return policies that ...

  15. Trains in Europe

    Find and compare train times and prices for travelling across Europe. Learn about different types of tickets, mobile tickets, and Eurostar's expansion across the continent.

  16. European Rail Travel

    Luxury Travel - European train services are unrecognisable from what we know in the UK, with an impressive system of high speed networks, on board restaurants and more space; luxury comes as standard. City to City - European rail services go direct to the city you want to visit, no transfer fees, no time wasted, just arrive happy and relaxed.

  17. Train Travel in Europe: What to Know

    Renfe is the national train company in Spain. Deutsche Bahn (DB) offers long-distance and regional trains in Germany. SNCF Connect offers high-speed train travel in France. Trenitalia is the state ...

  18. European train times

    Europe train times map. Our map of train routes in Europe shows the journey times between some of Europe's top cities. You can get from London to Paris in 2h 16m, Madrid to Barcelona in 2h 30m, Milan to Rome in 2h 48m or Berlin to Frankfurt in 3h 52m. Take a closer look at the map for an overview of Europe train times.

  19. Europe's best night trains for 2024

    The much-heralded European Sleeper service from Brussels to Berlin has proved an invaluable addition to the night-train scene, and the company behind it has plans to run the train through to Prague starting in 2024. With stops in Antwerp, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, this thrice-weekly train reinstated a route phased out in 2008.

  20. Get inspired

    Trip ideas. When you travel Europe by train, you'll discover that it's a fascinating continent. It offers many different cultures, wonderful scenery, and world-renowned cities. All of this is well-connected by rail. The train is your best friend no matter what you explore, from golden beaches to snow-covered mountains.

  21. What you need to know about European travel this summer

    Here's what you need to know to make sure your European trip this summer goes smoothly. 1. What you need to know about flight disruptions. Increased passenger numbers, staff shortages and ...

  22. Planning guide

    Get our Rail Planner app Plan your trip, get extra discounts, and show your Pass as you go. Our favorite spring routes Celebrate spring with these 7 off-the-beaten-path train routes ... Travel between popular European cities without seat reservations Help Help center FAQ overview Pass FAQ Travel FAQ Seat reservations FAQ ...

  23. Travel around Europe by train

    Tickets are currently on sale for train travel throughout France, valid for journeys until July 5, 2024! Upgrade your getaway with Trenitalia's Frecciarossa voyages There are moments in life when splurging is the only option, one such moment being a lifetime trip across Italy by train.

  24. Your travel partner to book train journeys in Europe

    One-stop shop for European trains. Our product offers focus on European train operators such as SNCF, SBB, Eurostar, Thalys, Trenitalia, Italo, DB, Renfe, OUIGO Spain and National Rail, and railpasses including the Swiss Travel Pass and Eurail Passes. Our brochure Easily access and book train journeys

  25. Interrail Pass 2024

    Interrail Pass offers unlimited train travel across 33 European countries and over 40,000 destinations. Choose between Global Pass for cross-border travel and One Country Pass for unlimited travel in a nominated country.

  26. Trains in Europe

    The Eurail Pass. With a single Eurail rail Pass, you can travel in up to 33 countries, hopping off along the way to experience Europe's most fascinating cities, monuments, and breathtaking scenery. Travel at your own pace and know that there is the perfect Eurail Pass for every European vacation! The adventure begins with the train journey ...

  27. U.S. Travelers in Europe's Schengen Area

    In Europe's Schengen area, your passport must be valid for at least six months at the time of your entry. At present, the Schengen area includes most European Union (EU) countries, except for Cyprus and Ireland. If you are transiting through Canada or the United Kingdom (UK) enroute to the Schengen area: your passport must be valid for at least six months, even though Canada and the UK do not ...

  28. European train times

    European train schedules. Our map of train routes in Europe shows the journey times between some of Europe's top cities. For example you can get from: London to Paris in 2h 16m. Paris to Amsterdam in 3h 12m. Madrid to Barcelona in 2h 30m. Milan to Rome in 2h 48m.

  29. Boosting passenger rail

    A new report, Boosting passenger preference for rail, by the International Union of Railways (UIC) in a partnership with McKinsey & Company, found that depending on the region, passenger numbers declined by between 40 and 100 percent, with a global average of around 70 percent. As the pandemic-related restrictions were lifted, operators put ...

  30. Train tickets in Europe

    Enjoy all Europe destinations. Rail Europe sells tickets across Europe and our coverage is increasing all the time. We're official agents for rail and bus operators in the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands., the easiest way to buy European train tickets online.