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?

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

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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!

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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!

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Train advice from the Man in Seat 61...

The Man in Seat 61

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A beginner's guide to

Train travel in europe.

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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.

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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!

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Routes and itineraries

View on Strasbourg

Picture Perfect

Let your fellow Interrailers show you the most Instagrammable places in Europe.

  • Includes Paris, Strasbourg, Konstanz, Zurich, Tirano, Milan and Geneva
  • Travel time: 10 days or longer

Create your stories → 

View on Sarajevo

New and exciting

See another side of Europe with this cool trip through 10 different countries.

  • Includes Ghent, Bruges, Leipzig, Bologna, Lyon and more
  • Travel time: 1 month or longer

See more of Europe →

Sunrise over Berlin

Europe by night

Travel across Europe by night and save the daylight for exploring.

  • Includes Paris, Venice, Vienna, Berlin and Zürich
  • Travel time: 7 days or longer

Explore by night train →

Generator Summer Promotion

Travelling with interrail this summer.

Stay at Generator hostels across Europe with an exclusive 20% discount . 

Interrail Pass holders get a 20% discount on accommodation and food & beverages at all Generator Hostels in Europe. Book via Generator's website  and use the promo code  EURAIL20  in the reservation process.

Included locations

Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, Dublin, Hamburg, London, Madrid, Paris, Rome, Stockholm, Venice


Sweden to Italy

Take the train all the way from Stockholm in the north to Rome in the south.

  • Includes Stockholm, Berlin, Munich, Vienna, Venice and Rome
  • Travel time: 14 days or longer

Head south with Interrail →

Dutch windmills and tulips

Explore the tulips

Get a front-row seat to the best of Holland's flower fields.  

  • Includes Leiden, Hillegom, Haarlem, Alkmaar and Den Helder
  • Travel time: 4 days or longer

Check out the flower fields →


Best of France

See the very best France has to offer with this wonderful train route.

  • Includes Paris, Versailles, Mont Saint-Michel, Bordeaux, Carcassone, Nice, Monte Carlo (Monaco) and Lyon

See France's highlights →

Amsterdam in autumn

Amsterdam Guide

Find out all the hotspots in Amsterdam with our comprehensive City Guide.

  • Includes all attractions in Amsterdam and tells you how to get around

Discover Amsterdam →

Museum island in Berlin

Berlin Guide

Find out what to see and do in Berlin with our comprehensive City Guide.

  • Includes all attractions in Berlin and tells you how to get around

Discover Berlin →

Paris sunset

Paris Guide

Find out where to go in Paris with our comprehensive City Guide.

  • Includes all attractions in Paris and tells you how to get around

Discover Paris →

The city of Lyon as seen from Fourvière Hill

More trips in Western Europe

Most relevant for western europe.

  • 1 month in Europe: Amsterdam to Florence Includes Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Bern and Florence
  • Romantic Interrail routes Includes Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Vienna, Bern, Zurich and more
  • Europe's 10 best scenic train rides Includes Switzerland, Germany, Austria, the UK and France
  • Mediterranean itinerary Includes Montpellier, Marseille, Cannes, Nice and Monte Carlo
  • London to Europe without the Eurostar Includes London, Dover, Calais and Paris
  • Switzerland itinerary Includes Zurich, Lucerne, Interlaken, Bern, Geneva
  • France Food Tour Includes Bordeaux, Paris, Strasbourg, Dijon, Lyon and more
  • Austria secret spots Includes the Weissensee, Hallstatt, Tyrol and more
  • Belgium secret spots Includes the Ardennes, Leuven, Bruges and more
  • France secret spots Includes Occitanie, Provence, Rouen and more
  • Germany secret spots Includes Dresden, Bavaria, Rhine Valley and more
  • The Netherlands secret spots Includes Vlieland, Leeuwarden, Alkmaar and more
  • Switzerland secret spots Includes Appenzell, Lauterbrunnen and more
  • Interrailing in Autumn Includes the Benelux, France, Germany and Switzerland
  • Beer and Wine festivals in Germany Includes Würzburg, Nuremberg, Munich, Stuttgart and more
  • Christmas markets in Germany Includes Düsseldorf, Cologne, Munich, Berlin, Hamburg and more
  • 2 months in Europe from Great Britain Includes London, Glasgow, Paris, Lucerne, Amsterdam and more
  • 1 month in Europe: London to Athens Includes London, Paris, Berlin, Salzburg, Lucerne and more
  • London to Istanbul with Interrail Includes London, Paris, Munich and more

Featuring Western Europe

  • 10 destinations off the beaten track Includes Utrecht (Netherlands) and Monschau (Germany)
  • Get inspired by fellow travellers Includes France, Belgium and Germany
  • 2 months Summer itinerary Includes Germany, Austria and Monaco
  • 10 active things to do in Europe Includes Switzerland, the Benelux, France and Germany
  • Interrailing in Spring Includes the Netherlands
  • Easter holidays in Europe Includes France, the Benelux and Switzerland
  • 5 best Halloween destinations in Europe Includes Amsterdam, London and Paris
  • Top 5 Europe Winter destinations Includes Germany, Austria and Switzerland
  • Slow travel in fast cities Includes Amsterdam, Berlin and Rathen
  • 10 Winter rail tips Includes Switzerland, Germany and the UK
  • 2 weeks in Europe: Food Tour Includes Paris and Lyon
  • Across the Alps Includes Annecy, Zermatt, Innsbruck, Salzburg and more
  • Europe's best cities for New Year's Eve Includes London, Berlin, Edinburgh and Amsterdam
  • Game of Thrones destinations Includes Northern Ireland
  • Dark Tourism in Europe Includes Paris and Amsterdam
  • 7 cities in 17 days Includes Berlin and Vienna
  • Epic Summer in Europe Includes Lauternbrunnen (Switzerland)
  • Italy and Switzerland in 2 weeks Includes Lucerne, Lauterbrunnen and Zermatt

24 hours in...

  • 24 hours in Amsterdam Includes all major attractions in Amsterdam
  • 24 hours in Berlin Includes all major attractions in Berlin
  • 24 hours in Bruges Includes all major attractions in Bruges
  • 24 hours in London Includes all major attractions in London
  • 24 hours in Munich Includes all major attractions in Munich
  • 24 hours in Paris Includes all major attractions in Paris
  • 24 hours in Vienna Includes all major attractions in Vienna
  • 24 hours in Zurich Includes all major attractions in Zurich

Other regions in Europe

Malaga beach, Spain 2

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Europe by Train: 20 Itinerary Ideas for 10 Days of Travel

There’s no better way to slow travel through Europe than by train. Here are 20 itinerary ideas for 10 days in Europe by rail – with options for every travel style, budget and season.

An epic European train journey through the Swiss Alps.

Europe is experiencing something of a railway renaissance, with old tracks being revived and new rail routes opening up.

Whether you’re looking for a fast-paced, multi-country itinerary or you prefer to explore one country in depth, travelling by train is an easy and affordable way to get around.

Some of these train journeys are among the most beautiful on Earth; others are a convenient way to get from A to B. Whatever you’re looking for, here are 20 of the best Europe 10-day itinerary ideas to get on board with.

Please note: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may earn a commission if you make a purchase by clicking a link (at no extra cost to you). Learn more.

10-day itineraries for travelling Europe by train

Each of these Europe train itineraries is perfectly suited to 10 days of travel but can easily be shortened or extended depending on how much time you have.

Depending on your travel plans and just how far you plan to ride the rails, it might be economical to pick up a Eurail Global Pass.

Similar to a Amtrak Rail Pass in the US or the JR Pass in Japan, it can be used for multiple trips across the continent (it covers 33 countries in total). There are no fixed dates, and you have complete flexibility to design your own route.

Learn more about the Eurail Pass and purchase your pass online here through the official website .

Central Europe by Train: Hungary to Slovenia

  • Route: Budapest – Bratislava – Vienna – Ljubljana
  • Editor’s pick

Hungary, Austria and Slovenia.

This route traverses four of Central Europe’s great capitals: Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna and Ljubljana.

Made for travellers who don’t mind moving at a fast pace and want to make the most of their 10 days in Europe, this itinerary hits all the urban highlights of Hungary , Slovakia, Austria and Slovenia with plenty of opportunities for day trips to castles, wineries and hiking areas in between.

Start in Hungary’s enthralling capital and spend a few days experiencing the best of Budapest . Don’t miss a morning wander around the covered market, a soak in the Gellert or Széchenyi Thermal Bath, and sunset at Fisherman’s Bastion.

After the impressive scale of Budapest, Slovakia’s capital (3.5 hours away by train) seems diminutive in comparison – but don’t be fooled, Bratislava has a lot to offer visitors. With one full day in the city you can catch all the highlights, starting with a morning walking tour of the historic Old Town core and culminating with a view from the castle grounds.

For something different, cross the famous UFO Bridge to wander around Petrzalka , a colourful neighbourhood on the opposite side of the river. Then indulge in a day trip on the Danube or through the countryside to visit Slovakia’s amazing castles, wineries and old towns .

Continue to Austria, following the mighty Danube river. For this leg you can choose between a morning train (1.5 hrs) or if the weather is good, the ferry (1.5 hours). Vienna needs no introduction – there are countless things to keep you occupied in this classic European capital for 2-3 days, ranging from historic cafes to museums and churches.

When you’ve had your fill, board the train for a final time for the scenic journey to Ljubljana. This train ride takes the better part of a full day and leads you through some of southern Austria’s and northern Slovenia’s most beautiful countryside. Stopovers in Graz or Maribor (Slovenia’s second-largest city) can easily be arranged if time permits.

Fall in love with petite and pretty Ljubljana by wandering the river’s edge through the Old Town, browsing the produce market and taking the funicular up to the castle. Bled is within easy reach (under 1.5 hours by train or bus) and you won’t regret adding on a half-day trip to visit the region’s most iconic lake .

Northern Italy: Milan to Trieste

  • Route: Milan – Verona – Padua – Venice – Trieste
  • Designed by: Sophie from Just Heading Out

Three cities in Northern Italy.

Italy has more than enough on offer to fill 10 days of travel or more . This route takes you to some of the most popular cities in the north of Italy plus a few underrated places.

Start in Milan, the elegant fashion capital. Spend two nights here to eat, drink, shop and see the highlights: The Duomo, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and the Castello Sforzesco. The next day, take either the regional train (2 hrs) or the fast train (1.25 hrs) to Verona.

Verona’s biggest claim to fame is as the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet , so you must visit Juliet’s balcony and Romeo’s house. But there’s much more to Verona! Climb up to the Castel San Pedro for a great view of the city, visit Castelvecchio, and see an opera performance at the historic Arena.

After two nights in Verona, board an early train to Padua (1 hr). Padua is noticeably less touristy than Verona or Milan. As one of the oldest cities in Italy , it features a beautiful historic city centre. Visit the Cathedral, the Botanical Gardens, and the Prato della Valle.

After dinner, it is time to take a train to Venice (30 mins). When you arrive, check into your hotel and rest up for three days of sightseeing . Aside from the highlights – such as Ponte Rialto, Doge’s Palace and Piazza San Marco – be sure to leave some time to explore the streets and get lost down the alleyways. A day trip to Murano and Burano is certainly worth the effort.

From Venice, it is a 2-hour train ride to Trieste. This underrated city lies close to Italy’s borders with Austria and Slovenia, and both influences can be clearly felt in the food, culture and architecture.

Trieste is the perfect place to slow down and relax for a day at the beach. Finish your trip around Northern Italy by visiting the Castello di San Giusto and Miramare Castle.

Southern Spain’s Andalusia: Madrid to Granada

  • Route: Madrid – Toledo – Cordoba – Seville – Granada

Three cities in Southern Spain.

While a road trip in Spain might be the best way to explore the country from top to bottom, you can still see a lot when travelling on the country’s railway network. This itinerary focuses on the southern part of the country: the culturally distinct and utterly mesmerising Andalusia region.

Spain’s capital is a natural place to begin. If it’s your first visit, pause for a day or two to visit the most important landmarks in Madrid before boarding a train to Toledo. Half an hour later, you’ll find yourself walking the streets of one of Spain’s most magical and history steeped cities . For all the best things to do in the imperial city, see this guide to Toledo .

For the remainder of your Spain train itinerary, divide your time between Cordoba (4 hours from Toledo by train), Seville (40 minutes from Cordoba) and Granada (1.5 hours from Seville). Each of these three Andalusian cities has its particular charms and fair share of awe-inspiring landmarks, most notably the Mezquita in Cordoba, the Alcazar in Seville and the one and only Alhambra in Granada.

If you have more time, finish with a couple of days on the coast or head west to Lisbon to continue travelling around Portugal by train.

Poland & Germany: Krakow to Berlin

  • Route: Krakow – Wroclaw – Dresden – Berlin
  • Designed by: Kami from Kami and The Rest of The World

Poland and Germany.

This train journey takes you through some of the most beautiful and interesting cities of Poland and Germany and allows you to see some lesser-known yet amazing corners of Central Europe.

Featuring historical sites, beautiful nature and hip spots, the itinerary is good for anyone who’s interested in culture and history but also wants to venture beyond the expected.

Start your journey in Krakow, the former capital of Poland and one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. You need at least two days to see all the main sights, starting with the Old Town and the Wawel Castle, the riverside and the Jewish quarter, Kazimierz. Krakow is a perfect base for side trips, the most popular being the UNESCO-listed salt mine in Wieliczka and Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Both are easily reached by train.

From Krakow, continue by direct train to Wroclaw (3 hrs), one of the main cultural capitals of Poland. Set aside a full day to see the city, taking your time to fall in love with the colourful Market Square and to find as many quirky dwarfs as possible. In the evening be sure to find the magical ‘neon yard’.

From Wroclaw, you can easily explore part of the Lower Silesia region – probably the most interesting part of Poland. Easy train trips include beautiful Swidnica , with its spectacular 17th-century Church of Peace (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the stunning Ksiaz Castle (the third largest castle in Poland), numerous spa towns, and the Sudety mountains.

From Wroclaw, continue by train toward Dresden but stop on the way in Goerlitz, the city divided by the Polish-German border. It’s one of the prettiest and best-preserved German cities and you’ll surely recognise it from numerous movies, including The Grand Budapest Hotel and Inglourious Basterds . The train trip from Wroclaw to Dresden takes a little over 3 hours and Goerlitz is more or less halfway.

Even though the city was badly destroyed during WWII, Dresden has some of the most impressive Baroque architecture you can find in Europe. You need two days to see it properly, but the main highlights of the city are conveniently located in the centre.

Finish your trip in the cool and vibrant capital of Germany, Berlin (2 hrs by train from Dresden), where you can enjoy a variety of attractions – from historical monuments and mementos of 20th-century world events – and alternative sites such as Kreuzberg.

The Swiss Alps: Geneva to Tirano via the Glacier Express

  • Route: Geneva – Bern – Interlaken – Zermatt – St Moritz – Tirano
  • Designed by: Allan from It’s Sometimes Sunny in Bangor

The Swiss Alps.

This 10-day itinerary is breathtaking all year round – but at the same time it’s winter-inspired as it follows some of the highest peaks in Europe and takes you to some of the most popular destinations for winter sports in the Swiss Alps.

Many of the stops are hard to reach, so the most convenient start is Geneva near the France/Switzerland border.

A day or two is enough time to explore Geneva, the largest city in Switzerland, before forwarding to the charming administrative capital of Bern (2 hrs). You can cover the main attractions of this small but beautiful city in a day – the connecting bridges are a must see – before the next stretch to Interlaken (1 hr), a resort town known as the ‘adventure capital of Switzerland’.

Interlaken is an ideal base to explore the many surrounding mountain peaks including the famous Jungfrau. The 3-Day Jungfrau Travel Pass offers great value for money when exploring this area’s mountains by train and cable car.

This Swiss rail itinerary then takes you high into the alps to visit some of the most beautiful winter resort towns in the world. The first is Zermatt (2.5 hrs), set beneath the majestic Matterhorn (AKA the Toblerone mountain). Cable cars from Zermatt whisk you up towards the peak.

A day is long enough to explore the town before joining the Glacier Express , one of the most scenic train rides in the world. After 7 hours riding the rails through mountainous terrain you’ll finally reach St Moritz where you can connect to yet another breathtaking train, the Bernina Express, to cross into Italy. The trip ends at Tirano (4 hrs). Spend a day in this resort town before continuing on to Milan or Turin for onward travel.

The Balkans by Train: Zagreb to Bar

  • Route: Zagreb – Belgrade – Bar

Zagreb, Montenegro and Belgrade.

Bus is by far the preferred way to travel around the Balkans region – but there is one rail route that should be on every traveller’s radar. The train from Belgrade (Serbia) to Bar ( Montenegro ) is easily one of the most scenic and yet underrated in all of Europe.

With 10 days up your sleeve, you can tackle this full-day journey (the day train is highly recommended) plus add a few days in Croatia’s capital, Zagreb , at the beginning of your trip.

Zagreb is often overlooked in favour of Venetian cities along the Dalmatian Coast – yet Croatia’s capital is easily one of its most beautiful destinations , albeit in a slightly unconventional way. Zagreb is loaded with history, street art and beautiful churches, including the iconic St. Mark’s, with its colourful tiled roof.

After a day in Zagreb, board a train for Serbia’s capital, Belgrade (6 hrs). The former administrative centre of Yugoslavia is a must-visit for those interested in modern history and Brutalist architecture. Spend a morning at Avala Tower , climbing up to the viewing deck for a panorama, cycle around the concrete jungle that is New Belgrade, and wander the old neighbourhood of Zemun. House of Flowers, the final resting place of Josip Broz Tito, is a fascinating visit – but if you only have time for one museum in Belgrade, make it the Tesla Museum.

Completed in 1976 and officially opened by President Tito himself, the Belgrade to Bar train passes over no fewer than 435 bridges on its way to the Adriatic Coast. It’s all about the journey: The part of Montenegro the train traverses is absolutely stunning , especially when the train passes over marshy Lake Skadar.

When you arrive in Bar, make a detour to Stari Bar to explore the ruined old town and the aqueduct before finding a spot to relax on the beach. Pleasant swimming beaches can be found down the coast in Ulcinj – itself a good jumping off point for travelling into Kosovo or Albania .

The Netherlands’ Randstad: Rotterdam to Amsterdam

  • Route: Rotterdam – Den Haag – Amsterdam
  • Designed by: Erin from Pina Travels

The Netherlands by train.

This European train route brings you to three beautiful Dutch cities within a region of the Netherlands known as ‘The Randstad’, the most heavily populated and developed part of the country.

On this route, you’ll get to experience the best of Dutch culture , architecture, history and food. Travel times between cities are short and direct, which makes this an easy train itinerary with maximum time to explore each destination.

The route begins with three days in Rotterdam. During WWII, Rotterdam was completely flattened by bombing. The city has since been rebuilt, and is now a modern metropolis that’s packed with history, art, good food and amazing architecture. While in Rotterdam, check out the city’s famous ‘cube houses’ to walk among the blocks and visit the Show Cube Museum . You’ll also want to check out the Erasmus Bridge, the Van Nelle Factory (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and Market Hall, where you can enjoy Dutch art and food all under one roof.

From Rotterdam, take a quick 25-minute train ride to your next destination, Den Haag (The Hague). Plan to spend three days in this city, which is known for being the seat of the Dutch government since 1588. Den Haag is home to the Gothic-style Binnenhof complex and the 16th-century Noordeinde Palace, which is one of the Dutch Royal Family’s official palaces. You’ll also find plenty of museums, churches, and restaurants that are worth visiting.

Next, take a 45-minute train ride from Den Haag to the capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam to witness the artistic heritage, elaborate canal system and iconic narrow houses for yourself. You’ll want to spend four days visiting popular attractions plus experiencing alternative things to do in Amsterdam .

Visit the Rijksmuseum to see the work of the Dutch masters and visit the Anne Frank Museum to learn the story of the Jewish wartime diarist. When you’re hungry, be sure to drop by Upstairs Pannenkoekenhuis to try some classic Dutch pancakes!

Portugal by Train: Lisbon to Santiago de Compostela

  • Route: Lisbon – Coimbra – Porto – Santiago de Compostela
  • Designed by: Or from My Path in the World 


Covering three of the biggest cities in Portugal along with the endpoint of the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, this route is perfect for history and culture lovers, as well as for anyone looking to immerse themselves in Portugal’s laid-back yet lively atmosphere , taste great food and wine, and meet friendly locals.

Lisbon is a contagiously vibrant city and it’s worth dedicating four days to experience the best of it, including its landmarks, museums, enchanting neighbourhoods and culinary and nightlife scenes. Some of the must-sees are Sao Jorge Castle, the National Tile Museum, Belem Tower, and the Santa Luzia Lookout Point – but the bucket list goes on and on.

A 2-hour train ride will take you to Coimbra, a postcard-perfect city on the Mondego River. Coimbra is known for its 13th-century UNESCO-Listed university, one of the oldest in Europe . While touring it, it’s possible to visit the Baroque Joanine Library, the Botanical Garden, gorgeous courtyards, and much more.

Other things to do here include visiting Sé Velha (Coimbra’s cathedral), admiring the Manga Cloister, and watching a Fado de Coimbra concert. This music genre originated in Lisbon but Coimbra has developed its own typical style.

After two days, continue to Porto (1.5 hrs), another must-visit place in Portugal . Spend another two days in this city, a fantastic base to explore the Douro Valley if you feel like hiring a car. Visit Livraria Lello (an astounding bookstore), wander through the Crystal Palace Gardens, visit the Bolsa Palace, and cross the bridge over to Gaia to tour some top port wine cellars.

Lastly, Spain’s train company, Renfe, can take you from Porto to Vigo (2.5 hrs) and from Vigo to Santiago de Compostela (50-90 mins), where you can spend your last day and a half. As the endpoint of the pilgrimage route Camino de Santiago, its highlight is, of course, the impressive UNESCO-Listed cathedral, built in the 11th-13th centuries.

Mainland Greece: Athens to Thessaloniki 

  • Route: Athens – Meteora – Thessaloniki
  • Designed by: Chrysoula from Greece Travel Ideas

Mainland Greece.

This 10-day train journey in Mainland Greece covers the country’s two major cities and the natural wonder of Meteora.

The train ride from Athens to the port city of Thessaloniki via Meteora is dramatic, as it passes through narrow valleys and steep mountainous countryside. The greatest treat is the chance to discover Meteora, with its amazing rock formations and six monasteries perched on high rocky crags.

Athens is rich in archaeological treasures that are easy to visit on foot. Other things to see include the Archaeological Museum, the various markets, and the Changing of the Guard ceremony in Syntagma Square. Four days or longer is required to enjoy all of these attractions.

The train from Athens to Meteora (Kalambaka station) leaves Larissis Athens station in the early morning and takes 4.5 hours. The journey passes through beautiful mountainous countryside with narrow valleys. It’s quite a long walk to the first of the monasteries and they are spread out across a wide area, so it’s best to take a taxi or pre-book a guided Meteora tour.

Most visitors to Meteora stay for two days in nearby Kastraki or the larger town of Kalambaka. All 6 of the monasteries are open to the public and accessible via stone-cut steps, but it’s advisable to limit yourself to 3-4 per day.

The train journey from Kalambaka to Thessaloniki takes 3.5 hours. Thessaloniki is an attractive port city with a rich history and reputation for good food, so it’s ideal to spend at least 2-3 days here. Thessaloniki has several notable Byzantine, Roman, Ottoman, and Sephardic Jewish monuments. In contrast, there are lovely beaches within easy reach, good shopping and a vibrant nightlife.

Czechia & Germany: Prague to Munich

  • Route: Prague – Nuremberg – Munich
  • Designed by: Riana from Teaspoon of Adventure

Germany and Czechia.

This 10-day train journey is all about beautiful buildings, rich history and – if you’re a fan – drinking lots of delicious beer!

Each of these cities has something special to offer and no shortage of things to keep you entertained. They’re also all quite close to one another, so you won’t waste too much time getting from one spot to the next.

The trip starts in Prague , one of the most beautiful capital cities in Europe, where you’ll spend three nights. On day one, walk through some of Prague’s most beautiful neighbourhoods before checking out Vysehrad castle in the afternoon. End your first day trying Czech food classics such as pork, dumplings and of course, beer! 

Start the second day with a walking tour through the Old Town and Wenceslas Square, take photos on the Charles Bridge, then enjoy a river cruise in the evening. On your third and final day in Prague, see the John Lennon Wall, visit the famous Prague Castle, and end with a beautiful view from Letna Beer Garden.

From Prague, head out on a 6-hour train journey to Nuremberg, where you’ll spend three nights. Your first day in Nuremberg should be dedicated to exploring the Old Town. Don’t miss Weissgerbergasse, a street filled with historic timber houses.

Take a guided tour of the Nuremberg Memorial to learn more about the Nuremberg Trials and visit the courtroom where the trials took place. For more history, visit the Nazi Rally Grounds and Documentation Centre on the afternoon of day two. For something lighter, admire the artwork at Albrecht Dürer’s House and visit the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg.

To finish, take a one-hour train ride from Nuremberg to Munich for your final 4 days. Get your beer fix at a local beer hall or garden, tour the beautiful Old Town, including Marienplatz and Frauenkirche, shop the food markets, and visit local museums.

On your last day in Munich, head out on a day trip. Visit Dachau, the oldest and largest concentration camp in Germany for an important tour through history, or head to Neuschwanstein Castle, the inspiration behind Sleeping Beauty .

Ukraine’s Big Three: Kiev to Lviv

  • Route: Kiev – Odessa – Lviv
  • Designed by: Amy from Moonshine and Minibuses

Three great cities to visit in Ukraine by train.

This itinerary hits the three most-visited cities in Ukraine , giving you an eclectic overview of Europe’s biggest country.

While you can take the day train in order to enjoy the views, Ukraine’s night trains are the recommended affordable way to cover a lot of ground quickly. If you’re nostalgic, the overnight trains are often a trip into the past!

Landing in Ukraine’s capital will launch you right into the middle of one of the most dynamic countries in Europe. From colourful medieval legends to stoic Soviet architecture , centuries of history are on display at every corner.

With four days in Kiev, join the pilgrims in the monastery caves of Lavra Pechersk and peek at mummified monks, explore the luxurious private residence of ousted President Yanukovych, and dine at restaurants headed by internationally renowned chefs.

Just when you’re getting into the groove of Ukraine, head to Odessa, the Pearl of the Black Sea, travelling either by intercity or overnight train. Odessa has a reputation for being a party town (that it gleefully lives up to), but in addition to the beach clubs and Gilded Age bars, make sure you take some time to learn about the history of the city. Established under Catherine the Great, it has a diverse and dramatic background.

After two or three days of living life to the fullest in Odessa, head towards Lviv. This city is nearly 800km from Odessa, so it’s best to take the overnight train. Considered a cultural hub, Lviv is a tapestry of idyllic European scenes, from its cobblestone streets to its skyline of church spires. Wander down alleys, pop into coffee shops, and peer into the myriad of churches.

End your trip to Ukraine at an underground bunker-style pub, a craft beer ‘theatre,’ or the regal opera house (or even the cocktail bar below it!).

Transiberian Express: Siberia to St. Petes

  • Route: Irkutsk, Siberia – Moscow – St. Petersburg
  • Designed by: Sinead from Map Made Memories

Siberia and St Petersburg.

This itinerary offers something for everyone as it combines historic sites and the fantastic architecture of the big cities with small-town rural Russia, nature trails and scenic landscapes.

Spend a day exploring Irkutsk on foot following the city’s ‘green line’, a tourist trail painted on the pavement that covers points of interest around the city. Take a full day trip to Lake Baikal 70km away. Shop in the fisherman’s market at tiny Listvyanka, visit the wooden Church of St Nicholas, take a boat trip on the world’s deepest lake, or enjoy a scenic hike in the hills surrounding the lake.

The train from Irkutsk to Moscow takes around three-and-a-half full days following a popular stretch of the Trans-Siberian Railway route.

When you arrive in Moscow, spend 3-4 days visiting the imposing Kremlin, Lenin’s Tomb and the incredible Armoury. Tour opulent churches such as the iconic St Basil’s Cathedral and the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

For an amazing view of sprawling Moscow, head to the deck on the top of the Central Children’s Store, an enormous toy store in the centre. Spend a day riding the elaborately decorated Russian Metro system and make a stop at VDNKh to view the sculptures and to visit the Museum of Cosmonautics.

The journey from Moscow to St. Petersburg takes 4 hours on the fast train or 8 hours on a slower overnight train.

Enjoy a leisurely trip on St. Petersburg’s canals before exploring the elaborate Winter Palace (try to book tickets in advance as there are usually long queues). Make time to visit the ornate Church of the Spilled Blood, decorated from floor to ceiling in tiny, colourful mosaics depicting intricate biblical scenes.

The Best of Britain: London Loop

  • Route: London – Bath – Cardiff – Liverpool – Edinburgh – York – London
  • Designed by: Tracy from UK Travel Planning

Three cities in Great Britain.

This 10 day best of Britain by rail itinerary is the perfect way for first-time visitors to explore some of the most popular cities across Britain’s three nations. In addition to visiting the three capitals, the itinerary also includes a trio of England’s most beautiful and interesting smaller cities.

A round trip itinerary, the journey starts and ends in London. To start, explore the sights, landmarks and attractions of the UK capital . A guided tour may be the best option to make the most of your day.

Departing from London, head to the UNESCO World Heritage Listed city of Bath. Travel time by train between the cities is around 1.5 hours with direct services departing from London Paddington to Bath Spa. The main highlights of Bath include the Roman Baths, Bath Abbey and the Royal Crescent. Sally Lunn’s is a popular cafe for a cake and a cuppa. On your third day, continue exploring Bath or jump on the train to Salisbury and Stonehenge.

After spending two nights in Bath, travel to the Welsh capital Cardiff (1 hr). In Cardiff, visit the castle, stroll the centenary walk or join a Gavin & Stacey or Dr Who themed tour.

Travel from Cardiff to Liverpool (3.5 hrs) and spend an afternoon exploring the main sights of the city including Albert Dock. Another option here is to take a Beatles tour and visit the childhood homes of Paul McCartney and John Lennon.

The Scottish capital, Edinburgh, fills the itinerary for days 6-7. There are plenty of things to do and see over two days, including Edinburgh Castle, walking the Royal Mile, shopping on Princes Street, and enjoying the views from Arthur’s Seat.

Then, travel from Edinburgh along the Northumberland Coast and through the cities of Newcastle and Durham before arriving in York (2.5 hrs). Walk the city walls, visit York Minster, learn about the city’s history at the Jorvik Viking Centre, and shop on the Shambles. For the best afternoon tea, head to the iconic Bettys Tea Rooms before travelling back to London on day 10 (2 hrs) to complete your loop.

To put a festive spin on this UK road trip, consider timing your journey to spend Christmas in London .

Norway by Train: Bergen to Oslo via the Flam Line

  • Route: Bergen – Voss – Myrdal – Flam Fjord – Gudvangen – Laerdal – Flam – Myrdal – Oslo
  • Designed by: Tracy from Tracy’s Travels in Time

Norway's cities, churches and fjords.

This rail itinerary from the coastal city of Bergen to Norway’s capital, Oslo, is perfect for those who want to experience the breathtaking beauty of this Scandinavian country. Train lovers will enjoy travelling on the Flam railway, which is recognised as one of the most scenic rail journeys in the world.

Spend the first couple of days exploring the city of Bergen. Not-to-be-missed highlights include the UNESCO World Heritage Site of old Hanseatic wharf and the buildings at Bryggen, Bergen’s fish market, and a ride on the funicular to Mount Floyen for spectacular views of the city.

On day three, hop on the train to the small resort town of Voss. The journey takes 1.5 hours with beautiful views along the way. If you’re visiting in summer, enjoy the hiking trails around Voss. In winter, make sure you book accommodation in advance as Voss transforms into a popular ski resort.

After spending the night in Voss, take the train to Myrdal (1 hr) where you alight and transfer to the Flamsbana Line. This is one of Norway’s most popular attractions, so book your tickets in advance.

As well as the Flamsbana, there are a few things to do and see in Flam including the museum – but the main attraction is the fjord on which Flam sits. Catch a boat and enjoy a spectacular scenic trip along two of Norway’s most famous fjords to the neighbouring village of Gudvangen.

The next few days offer the perfect opportunity to explore the local area. Stay in Gudvangen overnight before catching a bus to the nearby town of Laerdal via one of the longest road tunnels in the world.

Relax for a few days, enjoy a few hikes or cycle around. Explore the Gamle Laerdalsoyri village in Laerdal, whose wooden houses date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. The Borgund Stave Church near Laerdal is the best preserved stave church in Norway and can be reached by bus or bicycle.

On day eight, take the bus to Flam (50 mins) and jump onto the Flam railway back to Myrdal. Trains run from Myrdal to Oslo up to four times a day, but be sure to check connections.

The final two days of this itinerary are spent in Norway’s capital, Oslo. Explore the city’s museums (fans of artist Edvard Munch can experience his works at the new Munch Museum) and enjoy the architecture, cafes and foodie culture .

Northern Spain: Madrid to Barcelona via Basque Country

  • Route: Madrid – Bilbao – San Sebastián – Zaragoza – Barcelona
  • Designed by: Vicki from Vicki Viaja

Beaches and churches in Northern Spain.

While many visitors to Spain only travel back and forth between the most popular destinations, this Spain 10-day itinerary leads you to the north of the country – an area known for its great food and unique culture.

The itinerary starts in the capital of Spain, Madrid. In three days, you can get a good first impression of Spanish culture and visit essential sights such as the Plaza Mayor and the Almudena Cathedral.

The journey continues to the north of Spain. In Bilbao (4-5 hours from Madrid by train), you can experience the unique culture of the Basque Country. Bilbao is also the ideal destination for art lovers. Besides the world-famous Guggenheim Museum, the art museum Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao awaits you.

San Sebastián, also called Donostia, is another example of a great city in the Basque Country. After taking the train from Bilbao (2 hrs), get to know the northern beaches. The most famous in the area is the Playa de la Concha. Don’t miss the sunset .

Continue 3 hours by train to Zaragoza, a beautiful city in Spain that is unfortunately overlooked by most travellers. The city is built in the typical Spanish style and its restaurants allow you to try lots of delicious dishes from the region. Particularly impressive is the Pilar, the city’s basilica, which is located in the center. It’s the largest of its kind in Spain and is considered one of the most important churches in the country.

The last stop is in the Catalan capital Barcelona , 90 minutes by train from Zaragoza. Spend a few days relaxing on the beach, soaking up Catalan culture, and discovering some of the most impressive buildings of the Modernisme movement, including the Sagrada Família, La Pedrera and Casa Batlló.

East Meets West: Istanbul to Bucharest

  • Route: Istanbul – Edirne – Plovdiv – Sofia – Bucharest

Romania, Turkey and Bucharest.

This train journey is unique because it crosses continents, taking you from Istanbul from East to West, Asia to Europe, and through to Bulgaria and Romania. Trains in this part of Europe might be a little slower and less comfortable than what you’re used to, but that’s all part of the fun.

Start your epic rail journey the best way possible by crossing the Bosphorus into Europe. Istanbul is a huge, heaving city. Whatever time of year you visit – winter or summer – and however you choose to explore it – by focusing on the highlights, by wandering the less-touristy neighbourhoods or by letting your stomach guide you between the best restaurants and markets – you really can’t go wrong. Just make sure to set aside time for the Hagia Sophia and Grand Bazaar.

Before leaving Turkey , make an overnight rest stop in the city of Erdine (4 hours from Istanbul by train) to see the stunning 16th-century Selimiye Mosque before crossing the border into Bulgaria. As you continue moving north, you’ll see how the historic Ottoman influence has permeated the Balkans region.

While Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital city, has its draws and is worthy of a day or so of your time, Plovdiv is where you should direct most of your attention. One of the oldest cities in Europe, Plovdiv counts an immaculate Roman Amphitheatre and exquisite Bulgarian Revival architecture among its many virtues. To get there, you’ll need to take a bus or local train from Sofia.

The Sofia to Bucharest leg over the Danube river is another highlight of this itinerary – just be warned that it takes a full day to reach Romania’s capital and in the winter months , you may need to change trains at the border.

Devote some of your time in Bucharest to learning about Romania’s tumultuous recent history and don’t leave without visiting the vibrant Piata Obor market . One of the best things to do in winter is hop between the many cafes and wine bars, an experience that will show you a different side to the city.

Transylvania by Train: Bucharest to Sibiu

  • Route: Bucharest – Brasov – Sighisoara – Sibiu

Colourful houses in Transylvania, Romania.

A perfect extension on the previous itinerary (or a wonderful rail journey all on its own), Transylvania by train is a slow travel experience that will allow you to soak up the magnificent landscapes and wild nature this part of Romania is known for.

This trip is all about the fortified churches, Saxon cities and magnificent castles, with a side of hiking (or skiing) plus plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in Transylvania’s unique culture along the way.

A road trip through this area of the Balkans will give you more flexibility, but the romance and nostalgia of the train can’t be beat. Connections are reasonable, times fast and fares extremely affordable, making this a great choice for budget-conscious travellers.

Departing from Bucharest, take an early morning train (1.5 hrs) to the small city of Sinai to visit the awe-inspiring Peles Castle. As you break through into mountainous territory and enter Transylvania proper, your first stop is Brasov, another hour north by rail. Brasov is the first of three charming cities on this itinerary and warrants at least two full days, with an afternoon set aside for visiting Bran Castle.

The fortified city of Sighisoara (4 hours by train) is smaller than Brasov but even more charming. Walk the old walls, admire the craft guild gates and climb up both the bell and church tower for a view.

Sibiu (3 hrs) is known for its distinctive vernacular architecture and grand main square – there are towers here that you can climb for an aerial view, too. Connections back to Bucharest are easy to find, or you can continue west to Timisoara then cross into Northern Serbia .

Classic Italy: Venice to Rome

  • Route: Venice – Florence – Rome
  • Designed by: Samantha from The Wandering Wanderluster 

Three classic cities in Italy.

Train travel is arguably one of the most romantic ways to travel. So why not travel by train through three of Italy’s most romantic cities?

Venice, Florence and Rome are three of the most-visited cities in Europe and fortunately they are very well connected by Italy’s high speed rail network, which means you can easily visit them all in 10 days.

The beauty of this short Italy itinerary is that it can be done in either direction and thanks to the frequency of train departures, you can pretty much leave and travel onto your next destination anytime you want.

Start your trip in the serene ‘Floating city’ of Venice in the north, known for its charming canals, gondolas and beautiful architecture that lines the main artery through the city, the Grand Canal. There is a lot to see in Venice but for first timers, three days is plenty for the main highlights.

Jump on a 2-hour train and arrive in the heart of the Renaissance city of Florence for another three-day stay. Art lovers will trip over their tongues at the sheer volume of masterpieces to see in the city, while foodies will want to devour their body weight in Bistecca alla Fiorentina and drown themselves in Tuscan wine.

Finally, head to Italy’s magnificent capital city, Rome, where there are as many ancient ruins as there are churches – the main must-visit being St Peter’s Basilica inside Vatican City.

Three Great Capitals: Paris to London

  • Route: Paris – Brussels – London
  • Designed by: Dymphe from Dymabroad

Paris, London and Brussels.

This is the perfect itinerary by train for visiting three of the greatest European capitals.

Start in the French city of Paris where you can glimpse the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum and Sacré-Cœur in Montmartre. To explore the highlights of the city, three days is a good amount of time.

The train journey from Paris to Brussels takes about 1.5 hours. The capital of Belgium houses some of the institutions of the European Union. After two days, continue to London (2.5 hrs) for Big Ben, London Eye, Tower Bridge, and Oxford Street.

There are plenty of Instagrammable places in London to check out. Three days in the city is plenty of time to see the most iconic sights.

Christmas Market Route: Frankfurt to Metz

  • Route: Frankfurt – Cologne – Aachen – Liege – Metz

Three famous Christmas markets in Europe.

This festive-themed train trip around Europe takes you between five of the region’s most atmospheric Christmas Markets in Germany, Belgium and France. Travel times are short, so you can easily accomplish this route while the markets are in full swing.

Frankfurt’s Christmas Market dates back to 1393 and is one of Germany’s largest and most spectacular festive events. While you wait for Römerberg square to transform into an open-air market, spend your days in Frankfurt roaming the riverside and the reconstructed Altstadt Old Town. For more things to do in Frankfurt, see this list .

If you’re looking for something special to buy from the market in Frankfurt, a locally made blue-and-white pitcher jug is a great choice. Save some room in your suitcase, though, because there’s lots more shopping to come.

Cologne (60 minutes from Frankfurt by train) and Aachen (30 minutes from Cologne by train) boast two more gorgeous German-style Christmas Markets.

When your time in Germany draws to a close, cross the border by train to visit Liege (20 mins) where you’ll find yet another classic market, this time with Belgian souvenirs and food . Finish with a scenic train trip through Luxembourg to the French city of Metz (4 hrs), where a special gastronomic market awaits.

More Europe travel inspiration

  • Europe road trip itinerary inspiration : 13 ideas for winter
  • Foodie experiences in Europe
  • Best places to go in Europe in fall
  • Train travel packing list

Awesome information. I am going to use this guide to enhance my travels abilities.

So happy I came across this post! What a great list! I really like the look of the Swiss rail trip.

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The scene route between Oslo and Bergen runs through the mountains of Norway

The 14 most scenic train journeys in Europe

Pack a book, hop on board and enjoy the most scenic train journeys in Europe, from west to east and north to south


From glaciers and fjords to deserts and plains,   Europe ’s home to some of the world’s most mind-blowing natural landscapes. And so, logically, it makes a heck of a lot of sense that the finest scenic rail journeys in Europe – train routes which are specifically designed to show off those spectacular landscapes – are amongst   the best in the entire world .

The European continent’s finest scenic rail journeys also double up as pilgrimages to sites of incredible feats of engineering. These trains scale dramatic mountains, plunge through ginormous tunnels and span vast distances. You won’t just be gob-smacked by the view: you’ll wonder how on earth you’re able to experience it from the comfort of a locomotive.

And, before you say anything, no, scenic rail routes certainly aren’t just for rail geeks. Oh no. They’re also amongst the most comfortable and supremely romantic ways of getting around. As well as being much better for the planet than cars and planes, train travel is a destination in itself – and that’s even more the case with scenic routes. So, without further ado, here are our top 14 scenic railways in Europe right now.

RECOMMENDED: 🚂  The best train journeys in the world 🚅  The best train journeys in Asia 🚉  The world’s most spectacular train stations

Been there, done that? Think again, my friend.

Best train journeys in Europe

1.  oslo to bergen, norway.

Oslo to Bergen, Norway

Connecting Oslo and Bergen is the fairytale Bergen Line. Take it in spring or autumn, and the voyage plays out like a living painting of all four seasons, as blustery flower meadows and lush valleys fade into icy forests of pine and glittering lakes. It’s a journey that’s quite possibly up there with the best in the world. It makes little difference which way you travel – views are equally OTT in both directions, on both sides of the tracks – but start in the morning to ensure you get a full day of views on the seven-hour trip. Ticket prices are generally quite affordable, but onboard food will set you back, so pack snacks.

2.  Belgrade to Bar, Serbia and Montenegro

Belgrade to Bar, Serbia and Montenegro

Often referred to as ‘the Balkan Express’, the 11-hour (on a good day) jaunt from Belgrade to Bar celebrates civil engineering and natural majesty. A whopping 435 bridges are traversed as the train trundles from the Serbian capital to Montenegro’s largest port, working as a time machine through the twentieth century in these parts. That means socialist architecture in Užice, modern ski resorts in Kolašin and the rapidly developing tourism of Montenegro’s southern coast. The last stretch is particularly stunning.

3.  Palma to Sóller, Majorca

Palma to Sóller, Majorca

The electric train line that links Majorca’s capital, Palma, with the northern town of Sóller was originally built to ship oranges across the island. Its vintage wooden carriages rattle out of central Palma, through the city’s hinterlands and across the great dry plains of southern Majorca. After a stop in Bunyola, it’s a steady climb into the foothills – followed by the sudden pitch black of the Sóller tunnel. And then comes the best bit: a winding route through the lush peaks of the Serra de Tramuntana, with incredible views over Sóller’s distant church, before the final descent. The whole trip only takes an hour, leaving plenty of time to catch the heritage tram down to Port de Sóller and cool off in the sea before the return leg.

4.  Blaenau Ffestiniog to Porthmadog, Wales

Blaenau Ffestiniog to Porthmadog, Wales

The small mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog has fallen on tough times with the demise of the slate mining industry, but the little steam railway that connects it with Porthmadog harbour is a gorgeous route showing Wales at its most magnificent. Most of the journey snakes through Snowdonia National Park, with plenty of stop-off options for travellers with time on their hands. The Ffestiniog Railway Company is also the oldest independent railway company on the planet, another layer of awesome to this gorgeous experience. 

5.  Zermatt to St. Moritz, Switzerland

Zermatt to St. Moritz, Switzerland

If you’ve high expectations of an experience named ‘The Glacier Express’, get ready for them to be exceeded and then some. This mountain marvel connects the resorts of Zermatt and St. Moritz, and the panoramic views make this one of the best ways to embrace all this dramatic landscape offers. The seven-and-a-half-hour journey traverses 291 bridges, 91 tunnels and a whole lot of beauty. 

6.  The Brocken, Germany

The Brocken, Germany

Another gorgeous journey from base to summit, The Brocken Railway picks wide-eyed passengers up from the settlement on the edge of Harz National Park called Drei Annen-Hohne. When the ride is over, those passengers find themselves on top of the world, or at least on top of the Brocken, the highest peak in Northern Germany. The journey is all tight turns, dramatic valleys, snowy vistas and lose-yourself imagery at a maximum speed of 40km/h. 

7.  Barcelona to Montserrat, Spain

Barcelona to Montserrat, Spain

There are plenty of ways to travel from Barcelona to the base of Montserrat mountain, but we’re putting our eggs firmly in the basket marked ‘train’. Actually, that would be ‘tren’ in Catalan, but you get the idea. There is a wide range of tickets available for the journey, though we recommend getting one that covers not just your train from Barcelona and then either the cable car or rack railway up the mountain itself, but also entry into the Montserrat Museum.

8.  Fort William to Mallaig, Scotland

Fort William to Mallaig, Scotland

A constant on lists of the world’s most beautiful train journeys, Scotland’s Jacobite Steam Train is an 84-mile stunner traversing the magic of Scotland from Fort William to Mallaig. Booking ahead is an absolute must but totally worth it, as the journey transports visitors across a landscape that takes the term ‘rugged’ and redefines it in that inimitable Scottish way. Some call it the Hogwarts Express after its turn in the Harry Potter films, and you can insert your own magical comment here.

9.  Myrdal to Flåm, Norway

Myrdal to Flåm, Norway

Another frequent face on lists of the world’s best train journeys, the line between Myrdal and Flåm in Norway bridges the divide between impossibly cute and absolutely monolithic. That’s Norway in a nutshell, right? The small things are all quaint and idyllic, while the big ones bluster through stunning cliffs, jagged mountains and awe-inspiring scenery. The Flåm Railway climbs a whopping 867 metres into the sky and back, with a short shop at the Kjosfossen waterfall as the cherry on top. 

10.  Chur to Poschiavo, Switzerland

Chur to Poschiavo, Switzerland

Switzerland is every bit as spectacular as its reputation suggests it might be. Actually, this place is woefully undersold and the rail route between Chur and Poschiavo is further proof, a jaw-dropping run that takes lucky passengers through the heart of the Swiss Alps. The famous mountains unravel on either side of the train, scenery that tends to see passengers put their cameras down and stare at the wonders at hand. The Bernina Express continues toward Tirano in Italy for those who need even more scenery. 

11.  La Rhune, France

La Rhune, France

What an absolute stunner of a ride. From the foot of the Pyrenees to the top via an early 1900s cog railway, the quaintest of quaint trains scaling a mighty height. It can be a little jarring, but the cobwebs are soon blown away by the stunning vistas and the majesty that awaits at the summit. The train only runs from April to September, round-trip tickets cost €20 (an absolute bargain), and it begins its journey in the town of Sare, some 10km or so from Saint-Jean-de-Luz.

12.  Prague to Bratislava, Czech Republic and Slovakia

Okay, the scenery outside the window between Prague and Bratislava is nothing to write home about. Is it pretty? Sure, we’d expect nothing less from this part of the world, but the real fun of this route is found inside. A train journey spent in a Central European restaurant car is one of those most eccentric travel experiences, so make an immediate beeline for that part of the train when boarding. Line up some excellent Czech  pivo  and enjoy the conveyor belt of characters who will invariably make their way through the car. 

13.  Málaga to El Chorro, Spain

Málaga to El Chorro, Spain

While you can’t get a train across the thrilling and terrifying Caminito del Rey walkway, you can still experience a great journey on the way. The train from Malaga to El Chorro is a stunner, a fast route that takes less than 45 minutes and will set you back less than a tenner. That gives you just under 45 minutes to enjoy the stunning scenery and dredge up the courage to traverse the famous walkway. 

14.  Mostar to Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina doesn’t have many trains, but it remains an absolute must for lovers of rail travel. Why? Well, the stretch of track between Mostar and Jablanica quickly answers that question. It offers a jaw-dropping array of twists and turns that hug the cerulean blue of the ice-cold Neretva river, as jagged cliffs hem everything in from all sides. Sure, you need to get up early to catch the train, but it is worth that sunrise alarm. The route continues to Sarajevo, passing through charming Konjic and several satellite towns along the way.

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Travel Europe on a Budget

The Savvy Backpacker

City Guides .\33 a132798-3f3b-4585-954d-7e70cf863447{fill:#231f20}

Complete guide to train travel in europe | how to travel europe by train.

Our step-by-step guide to traveling Europe by train.


train travel in western europe

Traveling by train is the quintessential way to tour Europe. It’s romantic. It’s inspiring. It’s super-efficient. It’s comfortable. Some might say it’s almost magical. And to those who don’t live in a country where train travel is prominent, it’s a little mysterious.

In this Complete Guide To Train Travel In Europe,  I’ll cover everything you need to know about traveling Europe by rail—including how to get the best price on train tickets, rail pass tips, understanding train schedules, tips for riding trains, how to navigate train stations, and advice for dealing with other issues you might encounter. By the end of this guide, you’re going to be a European train expert!

Quick Tip: Most train tickets are now electronic so you’ll want fast and reliable mobile data on your phone when traveling via train. Check out my guide on how to use your phone in Europe and our guide to the best SIM Cards and Data Plans for Europe .

The Pros and Cons of Europe Train Travel

Europe by Train

Let’s start with a quick overview of the positives and negatives of train travel in Europe.

Advantages Of Train Travel In Europe

Here are all the things I love about riding the train in Europe:

  • In contrast, traveling from the airport to the city can take anywhere from 20-60 minutes and costs between $10-$80.
  • There are no lengthy check-in procedures or security screening for most train travel. You simply show up a few minutes before the train leaves, buy a ticket if you don’t have one, and hop on the train.
  • There are no luggage weight limits or extra fees for multiple pieces of luggage—just make sure that you’re able to lift your bag onto the train.
  • Most European trains now accept electronic tickets—you simply show your ticket on your phone. That means no waiting in ticket lines and it makes planning your train travel even easier.
  • You can pretty much bring whatever you want on a train—including alcohol. So stop by the local grocery store and pick up some cheap food for the journey.
  • Europe’s rail network is extremely vast so it is possible to travel to even small towns by train. Most destinations offer multiple trains a day. The most popular routes usually have multiple trains an hour so getting to where you want to go is rarely difficult.
  • If you’re traveling a long distance, consider taking an overnight train. These trains have special sleeper cars with bunks (usually six-bunk rooms or two-bunk rooms). A bunk in a sleeper car will cost about $45-$90 extra (about the same as a night in a hostel) but you won’t lose out on a whole day of travel. Overnight trains also have normal seats if you don’t want to fork over the extra cash for a bunk but it’s kind of uncomfortable.
  • Train travel allows you to be spontaneous so you can show up at any train station, buy a ticket, and be on your way.
  • Europe has a lot of beautiful countryside so traveling by train is a great way to see some fantastic views.
  • Some trains also offer designated quiet cars if you truly want quiet.
  • Train seats are larger and more comfortable than plane seats (especially when compared to many discount airlines). You’re also free to move about the train whenever you feel like it. Many trains also have seats that face each other and have a table between the seats—so it’s great for groups.
  • European trains run on schedule well over 90% of the time but flights are only on schedule around 65%.
  • Historically, train stations were the central hub for commerce and transportation so European cities showed off their status by building grandiose train stations. While it isn’t a huge deal, it is one of those nice little perks.
  • Many countries offer sizable discounts for people under 26 years old so don’t forget to look into those discounts.
  • The train is the most environmentally friendly form of travel. In fact, even France banned short-haul flights to encourage more train travel within France.
  • We’ve always found riding the train to be fun. It’s oddly magical and relaxing.

Disadvantages of Train Travel in Europe

Train travel isn’t perfect so here are a few things to watch out for:

  • That said, you can get some really good deals if you’re able to book high-speed trains in advance but you’ll pay a premium if you book last minute.
  • There are often discounts for travelers under 26 years old.
  • Note: Don’t forget to add in travel time to/from the airport and time to get checked in and through security—which will add around three hours to your journey.
  • The train schedules can be a little confusing—especially for beginners. Luckily, there are plenty of apps that help make the process much easier but we still get tripped up every now and then.
  • Many cities have more than one train station (Paris has six!). It’s not uncommon to arrive at one station and leave from another.
  • It is also possible to change stations during a single journey. For example, when traveling from London to Lyon via the Eurostar, the Eurostar stops at the Paris North station, but then you have to travel to the Paris East station to catch the train from Paris to Lyon because there are no direct trains from London to Lyon. This transfer would require a cheap Métro (subway) ride.
  • Striking is a national pastime in Europe. It happens a few times a year (or more if the people aren’t happy) but they announce the strikes well in advance so it shouldn’t be a surprise (just a hassle). You’ll just have to deal with them if they happen.

Pre-Trip Train Journey Planning

There are a number of great websites that will help you plan your train journey.

The first is Rome2Rio — simply plug in your destinations and it will give you all the train routes (as well as plane, bus, and car routes with cost estimates and travel times) for your journey. Rome2Rio is good for comparing different modes of transportation but I find better train ticket prices and more complete train listings on Omio and Trainline .

The German Railways Website ( ) shows the schedule of every train in Europe (yes, every train). We find that it’s helpful for piecing together complex train journeys. But it’s also good for seeing which trains require reservations and other important information. Unfortunately, you can only book German train tickets on the site so hop over to Omio and Trainline to book your tickets.

I’ve also written a few country-specific train guides to help you learn the quirks of each country’s rail network.

  • Belgium Train Guide
  • England Train Guide
  • France Train Guide
  • Germany Train Guide
  • Italy Train Guide
  • Netherlands Train Guide
  • Portugal Train Guide
  • Spain Train Guide
  • Switzerland Train Guide

How to Buy European Train Tickets

Europe train ticket machine

Buying European train tickets can be a little complicated—especially when you’re looking for the best deals.

That’s because each country runs its own National rail service (many countries also have separate private rail networks as well) and each does things slightly differently.

Luckily, there are plenty of online tools to make the whole process easier and we’ll walk you through the process.

NOTE: I’ve written an in-depth guide on how to buy train tickets in Europe if you want a more detailed look at finding the cheapest train fare.

How To Understand Train Ticket Pricing

Before we get started, I need to explain the two main ways train tickets are priced— fixed price and variable price .

Variable-Price Train Fares

Variable Train Fares are always changing based on demand, the day of the week, the time of year, and the distance to the departure date. Essentially all high-speed trains operate on this pricing model.

  • In general, the prices will continue to creep up as the departure date approaches—you’ll pay a fortune if you buy last minute.
  • Of course, you lose flexibility when buying tickets in advance because the cheapest tickets are normally non-refundable/unchangeable

Fixed-Price Train Fares

With Fixed Train Fares , the price is solely determined by the distance traveled. This is most common on regional and slower trains. With this type of ticket, it doesn’t matter when you buy tickets because the price never changes.

Where To Buy European Train Tickets

There are two main ways to buy European train tickets—directly from each country’s National Rail Service (via their website or at the train station) or through a third-party train booking search engine like Omio and Trainline —I find these booking services to be much more user-friendly.

Third-Party Train Ticket Booking Sites

There are quite a few advantages to buying your train tickets with third-party booking sites:

  • The advantage of booking with a third-party booking site is that it lets you book more complex multi-country/international train routes. Many National Rail Services have trouble booking international routes (i.e. going from France to Italy)—so they can’t always find the best deals or show all available routes.
  • Many of Europe’s National Rail websites still have issues processing foreign credit cards so it’s common for credit cards to be declined when booking. These third-party sites won’t have these issues.
  • We’ve found that it’s common for Europe’s National Rail websites to be plagued with weird technical problems and overall poor user interfaces. Many times you’ll get kicked from the English version of the page to the local language in the middle of the booking process. These third-party booking websites take care of these issues.
  • Third-party booking services have much better smartphone apps than the clunky national rail service apps.

Our Favorite Train Booking Websites

  • Omio : Omio is a great train booking engine that lets you book tickets from just about every country’s rail service and they make the booking process very user-friendly.
  • Trainline : Trainline is a new European train booking service (very similar to Omio ) that sells train tickets from Austrian, French, German, Spanish, Italian, and German Railways railways (and a few others).

National Booking Sites

Despite their technical issues, sometimes the cheapest tickets can only be found by booking directly with each country’s national rail service. This is because sometimes they offer limited-time deals that third-party booking sites don’t have access to. So it doesn’t hurt to at least take a look.

Links to Some National Railway Websites:

Austrian Railways ¹ – Belgian Railways ¹ – Danish Railways – Finnish Railways – French Railways – German Railways – Irish Railways – Italian Railways – Spanish Railways – Netherlands Railways ¹ – Norwegian Railways – Polish Railways – Swedish Railways – Swiss Railways ¹ – United Kingdom Railways

¹ Domestic tickets (i.e. trips that are wholly within the country) are always the same price — regardless of when they’re purchased and they never require a reservation. Therefore, it is easiest to buy tickets at the station. However, these countries often have a separate international high-speed train system (e.g., Belgium has slower regional trains and high-speed Thalys trains that link major Belgian cities to other international cities — these tickets should be purchased early for cheaper fares).

Quick Note About Eastern Europe Trains

Some Eastern European countries still don’t have online ticket booking so it’s only possible to purchase tickets at the station or through a local travel agent. Ask your hostel or hotel and they’ll tell you where to locate an agent.

Receiving Your Online Tickets

There are multiple ways to collect your tickets after you purchase them:

  • Electronic Tickets:  Many times you can have an electronic ticket sent to your phone (either via email or the booking app). Simply show the conductor on the train when he checks tickets and he’ll scan the QR code on the screen. This isn’t available in all countries but most countries have switched to eTickets.
  • Print-At-Home Tickets:  Anywhere that offers electronic tickets will usually let you print tickets at home. You can often simply save the PDF to your phone/tablet and the conductor can scan it from there.
  • Note: You’re often required to use the SAME credit card use to purchase the tickets to collect the tickets at the station.

Buying Tickets At The Station

You can buy train tickets at any train station—either from the ticket window or from automated ticket machines. We recommend trying the automated ticket machines since the lines at the ticket window are long, slow, and understaffed.

When To Buy Train Tickets To Get The Best Price

Fares are fixed for most  regional and local trains so there is no reason to buy them early.

For high-speed trains , it’s best to buy tickets early to get the cheapest tickets. In most cases, train tickets can be purchased 60-90 days before the departure date but buying a few weeks early is usually fine.

Train Ticket Price Examples (Comparing Last Minute vs Buying Early)

  • Purchased Two Days Before Departure: €69.00
  • Purchased Three Weeks Before Departure: €55
  • Purchased Two Days Before Departure: €135
  • Purchased Three Weeks Before Departure: €97
  • Purchased Six Weeks Before Departure: €54
  • Purchased Two Days Before Departure: €234
  • Purchased Three Weeks Before Departure: 124
  • Purchased Six Weeks Before Departure: €55

As you can see, booking just a few weeks early can save quite a bit of money.

Quick Point About Buying Train Tickets Early : As stated above, buying tickets in advance is the best way to save money but this also limits your ability to be flexible/spontaneous. This is especially true since many of the truly cheap train tickets are non-refundable. For optimum flexibility, it might be best to buy a rail pass. Here’s my  Guide To Using Rail Passes in Europe and my Eurail Pass Review .

Other Train Ticket Discounts

Most rail services offer various discounts—some are based on rider age but other discounts are based on region, the day of the week, or other schemes.

  • The most common discount is a youth discount — which is usually for people under 27 years old.
  • Most countries offer a number of potential discounts. For example, Germany has a Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket (Happy Weekend Ticket) where groups of 2-5 people can ride as much as they want on regional trains from Saturday to Sunday for €44. Check each country’s rail service website to see if there are discounts available.

Eurail Passes

train travel in western europe

Many travelers choose to use rail passes instead of buying individual tickets. That’s because Eurail passes can save you a bit of money (depending on how you use them) but most importantly they give you excellent flexibility by allowing you to travel without needing to plan.

Note: We’ve written a lot about Eurail Passes. Check out our  Guide To Using Rail Passes in Europe and our Eurail Pass Review for more in-depth information.

Quick Rundown On Rail Passes

A rail pass (aka Eurail Pass) is a single ticket/pass that allows you to ride any train in Europe—simply hop on, show the conductor your pass, and you’re good to go. Actually, it’s not quite that easy these days as there are a few stipulations, but the general idea is that you can ride any train without booking individual tickets.

Types Of Rail Passes

  • Continuous:  Unlimited travel to any Eurail participant country for between 15 days and 3 months.
  • Flexi:  10 or 15 individual travel days (doesn’t have to be consecutive days) to any Eurail participant country within a two-month period.
  • For example, one pass could be 10 days of train travel between France, Switzerland, and Italy. You have a two-month window to use of your 8 travel days. Each day you travel by train counts as one travel day but you can take unlimited train rides within each day.
  • Eight travel days in a single country which must be used within a month.

Advantages of Rail Passes

  • Flexibility: The number one benefit of rail passes is the flexibility they offer. You simply have to walk onto the train and go.  That’s why this is a great option for people who don’t want to plan and who would rather wander across Europe.
  • Long-Distance Trains: It’s also a good deal if you plan on taking a lot of long-distance trips because those tickets tend to be expensive so a rail pass is a good way to save some money. On the other hand, if you’re taking a bunch of short train rides then you’ll probably be better off buying single tickets.
  • Low Stress:  Piecing together a bunch of train journeys and then pre-purchasing individual tickets is stressful and takes a lot of time and planning. For a lot of people, paying a little extra for a rail pass is worth the hours saved having to preplan your entire trip.

Disadvantages of Rail Passes

  • More Expensive: It’s usually cheaper if you purchase your train tickets online a few weeks in advance. That said, most of these cheap pre-purchased tickets are non-refundable so you’ll lose most of your flexibility. However, if you’re purchasing your train tickets a few days before departure then it’s much cheaper to use a rail pass.
  • Reservations: A few countries require rail pass holders to pay extra for a seat reservation on high-speed trains. The fee can range from anywhere from €5-€35 and they have to be made in advance — they can sometimes be made online or directly at the train station. Here’s a detailed guide to rail pass reservation requirements from You can also enter your journey into  and it will tell you if that specific journey requires a reservation.

Navigating The Train Station

Europe train guide | safety

Ok, now we know how to buy train tickets and rail passes… so let’s learn about what to expect when you get to the train station.

The train station is the central transportation hub of most European cities so things can be a little chaotic and confusing—especially if you’re not used to traveling by train.

In this section, I’ll give you some tips to help you find your train.

First, make sure you have the correct train station because many cities have multiple stations. For example, Paris has six stations. Even some small towns have two different stations.

Once you arrive at the station, you’ll see signage in English so you shouldn’t have much trouble finding your way. Some stations are huge so you may have to walk quite a bit and navigate stairs and escalators.

Depending on the size of the station, you’ll also find fast food, cafes, shopping, lounges, and restrooms (although you sometimes have to pay to use them). Also, most train stations have luggage lockers that you can rent if you need them.

Pickpockets and Scams at the Train Stations

Train stations can get very busy, hectic, and full of confused tourists so they’re a common target for pickpockets and other scammers. Pay attention to your stuff and be wary of “helpful” strangers willing to help you with the ticket machines. Check out our Guide To Avoiding Pickpockets and Tourist Scams in Europe .

Train Ticket Machines

Europe train guide | vending machines

If you need to buy your train tickets or print your pre-purchased tickets you’ll want to first head to the automated ticket machines. Everything is in English and the machines are easy to use.

Alternatively, you can still go to the ticket window or customer service desk but the lines are usually long.

Reading The Train Station’s Departure Board

Europe Train Guide | Departure Guide

Once you arrive at the station you’ll want to look for the departure board. There are usually multiple boards throughout the station and one giant main board. This board tells you where to find your train, when it leaves, and where it’s going.

The three most important things to note are the train number , departure time , and the platform .

Your train ticket will show the scheduled departure time and the train number but it usually won’t show which platform the train leaves from.

So head to the departure board and find your train number to see at which platform your train is located. It’s very common for the departure board to not display the platform until 10-15 minutes before departure so pay attention to the board.

Find Your Train’s Platform

Europe Train Guide | Platforms

Once know what platform your train is departing from you’ll want to find that platform at the station. Sometimes the platforms are a bit hard to find so you might have to seek them out.

Don’t worry if there isn’t a train there at the moment because trains often pull in, load up, and leave.

There are usually a few staff members milling about on each platform so don’t be afraid to ask train station staff as most can speak English.

Validate Your Ticket 

Europe Train Guide | Validate Ticket

Many physical train tickets need to be validated (stamped with time/date) before entering the train so look for small validation boxes near the entrance of the platforms. Simply place your ticket inside the machine and it will stamp it.

You can receive a large fine if the ticket checker sees that your ticket isn’t validated (they’ll assume you were trying to ride for free). If you forgot, quickly seek out the conductor, explain that you forgot to validate and everything should be fine. Or you can just play the “I’m a dumb tourist and these scary trains confuse me” card and hope they let it slide.

Note: Electronic tickets don’t need to be validated because they’re usually only good for the specific time stated on your ticket. Some paper tickets also don’t need to be validated but we usually try doing it anyway to be safe.

Finding Your Train Car

Europe Train Guide | Coach Number

On some trains (usually high-speed trains) you have assigned seats so look at your ticket to see which train car your seat is in. The car number will be displayed on the side of each train car.

You can board the train in any car but it’s much easier if you enter your car (walking through multiple train cars is a pain).

Most regional and slower trains don’t have assigned seats so you can simply board anywhere you like.

That said, you’ll want to get on fairly quickly because trains are usually only at the station for a few minutes before they leave.

On The Train

train travel in western europe

You’ve made it on the train. Congratulations! In this section, we’ll talk about settling in and a few things you might experience on your ride.

Find Your Seat & Store Luggage

Find your assigned seat (if you have one) or take any free seat if it’s open seating. The seat numbers are displayed above the seats.

Take the opportunity to store your luggage. Smaller luggage like backpacks and some suitcases can be stored above your seat on luggage racks. There are usually larger spaces for bigger luggage at the end of each train car.

Wait For The Conductor To Check Your Tickets

A ticket checker will come by and check your ticket after the journey starts—typically within 10-20 minutes after departure.

While not extremely common in Western Europe, border patrol might board the train to check passports. They might ask you some questions but we usually only encountered this in Eastern Europe.

Enjoy The Ride

One of the great things about train travel is the comfort of the ride. Feel free to walk about, check out the bar car, enjoy a picnic (alcohol is allowed), or sleep. Some trains offer free wifi but we’ve never had much luck getting it to actually work.

Departing The Train

One of the most confusing parts of the ride is knowing exactly when to leave the train. That’s because train stations are sometimes named very similarly.

For example, many trains coming into Brussels first stop at the Brussels Nord station (which is located on the outskirts of town) before stopping at the main  Brussels Centrale station (which is located in the center of town).

More Europe Travel Tips From The Savvy Backpacker

Best travel pants

I have a lot more tips and tricks for traveling through Europe on a budget. Here are a few helpful articles I think you’ll enjoy.

  • Get moving with our picks for the  Best Travel Backpacks .
  • Get packing with our  Europe Packing List .
  • Get traveling with our  Europe City Travel Guides .
  • Get planning with our step-by-step Guide To Traveling Europe On A Budget .
  • Get a High-Speed eSIM Data Plan for Europe and learn more about how to use your phone in Europe .
  • Recent Posts

James Feess

  • France Train Guide — How To Travel France By Train - June 30, 2024
  • Best eSIM For France | A Complete Guide To Buying eSIM Data Plans in France - June 30, 2024
  • How To Buy Train Tickets in France | Guide To Buying French Train Tickets - June 24, 2024

train travel in western europe

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Related Reads

France train guide — how to travel france by train.

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How To Purchase Train Tickets for Europe | Strategies For Buying European Train Tickets

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Plan unforgettable road trips!

2 weeks in Europe Itinerary by Train – 4 detailed options (+ Tips)

Last updated on March 2, 2023 by Claire Robinson - this article contains affiliate links. If you purchase through them, I get a small commission ( more )

Planning a trip to Europe? Want to get a great snapshot in a limited time? In this article I share my top tips to plan your 2 weeks in Europe as well as 4 detailed Europe itineraries by train : Latin, Eastern, Western and Central. Discover some of the most beautiful treasures of the continent.

Travel Europe trip itinerary 2 weeks

// In this article, no ads, no sponsored posts. Just some affiliate links. If you purchase through them, I get a commission at no extra cost to you ( Disclosure ).

Things to consider when planning 2 weeks in Europe

Want to discover as much as possible of Europe during your 2 week trip? Here are a few points to consider when planning your itinerary:

  • SIZE OF EUROPE - the European continent is as big as the USA 
  • VARIETY OF CULTURES - In theory, if you were flying every evening or morning you could change countries everyday and still have a full day to explore. But Europe is full of different fascinating cultures. There is much to see everywhere. So I recommend selecting a portion of Europe and visit only a few countries, to better appreciate each place.
  • SIMPLE TRAVEL - Traveling between large cities is relatively easy in Europe, but once you decide to reach smaller cities, it means more connections and modes of transportation. Considering you "only" have 2 weeks, I recommend sticking to major cities

2 weeks in Europe Itinerary 2 weeks

Best way to travel Europe in 2 weeks - Europe by train

  • BY TRAIN   - easy access from cities, direct trains connect most major cities, plus you can see the landscapes changing, spot small villages and appreciate more of each country. CHOICE I RECOMMEND Book you train tickets with the SNCF Connect platform!
  • BY CAR - If you want to cover several different countries, I don't recommend renting a car, because distances are significant and parking in major cities is a pain. Rent a car only if you want to do regions that are close to each other i.e. North of France, South of Belgium and Luxembourg My favorite platform for renting cars around the world is Discovercars .
  • BY PLANE - between the time to get out of the city to the airport, being early and waiting for flight, the time to get luggage, time to get inside the next city... it may seems faster, but it is often not Plus train you can see landscapes changing, spot small villages
  • BY COACH  - For those with smaller budget, this is a good alternative to train. But you need to plan more time for transportation

Europe by train - best way to travel Europe in 2 weeks

2 weeks in Europe itinerary - My 4 proposals

Based on all that, I have created 4 possible 2 week Europe itineraries by Train for you to consider depending on your interests. Below is a map that shows you which parts of Europe are covered with those 4 suggestions:

Map Europe itinerary 2 weeks by trains


  • Barcelona (Spain) + Paris (France) + Venice (Italy) + Rome (Italy + Vatican)
  • Go directly to itinerary


  • European Elegance
  • Prague (Czech Republic) + Vienna (Austria) + Bratislava (Slovakia) + Budapest (Hungary)


  • London (UK) + Paris (France) + Brussels (Belgium) + Amsterdam (The Netherlands) + Berlin (Germany)


  • Especially good at Christmas, away from the capital cities
  • Luxembourg + Strasbourg (France) + Munich (Germany) + Salzburg (Austria)

Don't make the same mistake I did!

VPN mistake

During one of my last trips, I used an open hotel wifi and got my credit card details stolen. So, my travels started with a phone call telling me I could not use my card anymore! What a mess...

Learn from my mistake, make a small investment for worry-free surfing. Get a VPN tool to turn on once you are outside your home!


LATIN EUROPE trip Itinerary 2 weeks

Trip overview.

Latin Europe trip itinerary two weeks

Day 1 to 3 - BARCELONA (Spain)

Highlights / Classics

  • Visit the magnificent Sagrada Familia - it is massive with a unique style. Considered the absolute must-see in Barcelona
  • Admire the architectural work of Gaudi with his emphasis on natural curves and patterns, creating the catalan modernism movement
  • Enjoy the light and music show at the Magic Fountain
  • Go to the top of the Tibidabo Mountain to admire Barcelona from above
  • Visit the Joan Miro Foundation to discover some of the artist's most iconic work

Barcelona stop on Europe itinerary by train

Where to Stay

Below are some suggestions of places to stay in Barcelona on your 2 weeks in Europe itinerary:

  • Best areas to stay in Barcelona - Old town (El Born), Barceloneta Las Ramblas and Placa Catalunya
  • LUXURY - El palace Hotel in the old town, modern decor in old charm with a fantastic location - Check out photos and latest prices
  • MY FAVORITE - Duquesa Suites Barcelona, great light and views, fantastic terrace  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • VALUE FOR MONEY - Room Mate Pau has amazing design, friendly staff and a great location - Check out photos and latest prices
  • HOSTEL - Hostel one Ramblas: clean, good atmosphere, free diner and a roof top terrace  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • Or Find your ideal accommodation within the best customer-rated accommodations in Barcelona

Food Suggestions

  • Try as many tapas as possible. I love this way of eating, to be able to enjoy so many flavors!!!
  • Tortilla, the traditional Spanish Omelette
  • Paella - a good fresh paella cooked in a giant dish Miam!!!
  • And for desert, the Catalan Creme with its cinnamon custard

what to eat in Barcelona Pix-1578965_640

Barcelona Like a local

  • Enjoy a Sunday picnic at Parc de la Ciutadella to enjoy a little bit of greenery, especially on hot summer days
  • Watch sunset at Bunkers del Carmel
  • Chill at the Mar Bella Beach
  • Go for a run at Parc Natural de Collserola
  • Explore the specialty shops in the Gracia district 

Useful words in Catalan

  • Good morning : Bon Dia
  • Hello - Hola
  • Thank you - Merci (similar to French with with emphasis on e)
  • Please - Por Favor
  • Currency - Euros
  • Plug - 2 rounds
  • Emergency - 112

Activity ideas

Check out some of the best rated activities :

Day 4 - TRAIN Barcelona to Paris

  • Path - Barcelona Sants to Paris Gare de Lyon station
  • Time on train - 6h30
  • Type of train - Choose the "directs" with High speed trains
  • Suggested time - Morning departure for arrival mid afternoon or beginning of afternoon departure for arrival in the evening
  • Check availability and Book you train tickets with the SNCF Connect platform! Book your seat and Purchase Train Ticket

Day 5 to 8 - PARIS (France)

  • Admire the iconic Eiffel tower and its impressive structure
  • Visit the Notre Dame Cathedral and travel back in time
  • Visit the underground world at the Catacombs
  • Admire the stained glass windows at Sainte-Chapelle
  • Get up to the Sacré-Coeur to look over Paris
  • Watch a show at one of the cabarets
  • Enjoy an evening cruise on the River Seine to see the lights of Paris
  • Feel royal at the Versailles Castle
  • You can check out my article about spending 3 days in Paris

Paris stop on Europe trip itinerary by train

Below are some suggestions of places to stay in Paris on your 2 weeks in Europe itinerary:

  • Best areas to stay in Paris - The Marais, near the Pantheon, the 6th arrondissement, Ile Saint Louis... Check out my complete article on where to to stay in Paris
  • LEGENDARY - Le Meurice is a palace in the 1st with great views of Paris (some rooms see the Eiffel Tower), a perfect location and a renowned restaurant  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • LUXURY - Le Narcisse Blanc & Spa in the 7th, classic Parisian chic and great facilities - Check out photos and latest prices
  • MY FAVORITE - Hotel La Lanterne in the 5th - love the style and the swimming pool area! - Check out photos and latest prices
  • VALUE FOR MONEY - Hotel du Vieux Saule is in the heart of the Marais, yet has quiet rooms - Clean and practical for a good price - Check out photos and latest prices
  • HOSTEL - Generator Paris in the 10th, close to Metro station Colonel Fabien (Line 2) - Check out photos and latest prices
  • Or Find your ideal accommodation within the best customer-rated accommodations in Paris

Since I am French, I could list pages and pages of great food to try. So delicious! But I have to limit myself here...

  • For breakfast croissant and pain au chocolat or some fresh baguette from the bakery
  • Cheese, cheese and cheese 🙂 we even have restaurants that only serve cheese dishes. LOL
  • Find a great bakery to try delicious cakes. The good ones melt and crisp in your mouth and are very light
  • And while you are there, taste the Macarons. They exist with many flavors and will make you gasp.
  • Enjoy the wine too

Food tours Paris

Experience Paris like a local

  • Relax along Canal Saint-Martin, especially in the evening in Summer
  • Sit at a terrace, drink coffee and do people watching
  • Enjoy a weekend picnic in Parc des Buttes Chaumont (with baguettes and wine!)
  • Just go for a walk, take side streets and see where they lead you

Useful words in French

  • Good morning : Bonjour
  • Hello - Salut
  • Thank you - Merci 
  • Please - S'il vous plait

Check out the best tours and activities in Paris 

Overnight Day 8 to Day 9 - Travel to Venice 

  • Path - Paris Gare de Lyon to Venecia Santa Luzia
  • Time on train - 14 hours 25 minutes
  • Type of train - Thello Night Train to get a train without connection
  • Suggested time - 7:10pm departure
  • Check availability and Book you train tickets with the SNCF Connect platform! Book your seat and Purchase train ticket

Day 9 and 10 - VENICE (Italy)

  • Marvel at Saint Mark's Basilica
  • Enjoy a Gondola ride on the canals
  • Get up the Campanile di San Marco
  • For more ideas about things to do in Venice, check out this guide by Suitcase and Wanderlust

Venice stop on itinerary Europe travel by train

Below are some suggestions of places to stay in Venice on your 2 weeks in Europe itinerary:

  • LUXURY - Hotel Londra Palace: fantastic location and some great views - Check out photos and latest prices
  • MY FAVORITE - Hotel l'Orologio because it is modern, instead of going with heavy traditional decors, to avoid overload during your visit   - Check out photos and latest prices
  • VALUE FOR MONEY - Alla Vite Dorata: welcoming, good location but calm, small option at great price  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • HOSTEL - Located within a historic monastery, We_Crociferi has a great ambience, romantic and modern   - Check out photos and latest prices
  • Or Find your ideal accommodation within the best customer-rated accommodations in Venice
  • Baicoli, historical biscuits that could last long for sailors on ships
  • Sarde in saor - a sweet and sour dish with fried sardine fillets
  • Fritole during the carnival period, a sweet fried pastry
  • The many delicious risottos with seafood

Useful words in Italian

  • Good morning - BuonGiorno
  • Hello - Ciao
  • Thank you - Grazie
  • Please - Per favore

Check out the best tours and activities in Venice 

Day 11 Venice + Travel to Rome 

  • Path - Venezia S Lucia to Roma Termini (the most central of the 2 stations)
  • Time on train - 3h45
  • Type of train - Regional Train
  • Suggested time - Morning or afternoon depending on if you want to see more of Venice or Rome
  • Check availability and Book you train tickets with the SNCF Connect platform! Purchase Train Ticket and Book your seat

Day 12 to 14 - ROME (Italy)

  • Imagine ancient games at the Colosseum
  • Imagine how life was as you explore the Roman forum
  • Make a wish at the Trevi Fountain
  • Admire the many historical buildings, especially the pantheon
  • Visit another country: the Vatican

Rome stop on itinerary Europe trip by train

Below are some suggestions of places to stay in Rome on your 2 weeks in Europe itinerary:

  • Best areas to stay in Rome - around the Pantheon, Around Trevi in the northern part of the historic center or in the South near the Colosseum
  • LUXURY - Hassler Roma where some of the rooms have exceptional views  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • MY FAVORITE - The Inn at the Roman Forum: small hotel, great rooms, charm, luxury and history  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • VALUE FOR MONEY - Hotel Condotti with great location, nice staff and good soundproofing  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • HOSTEL - Generator Rome with well designed clean rooms  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • Or Find your ideal accommodation within the best customer-rated accommodations in Rome
  • The essentials - Pizza, Pasta and ice cream
  • Suppli - fried rice ball

food in rome - pizza

Experience Rome like a local

  • Relax in the park of Villa Borghese
  • Speak with your hands
  • Watch sunset from the Giancolo
  • Take a cooking class

Check out the best tours and activities in Rome 

Is the railpass worth it?

This itinerary enters inside a Eurail Select Pass 3 countries (5 days of travel within 2 months) - see the railpass options and click on "Pass" tab

According to my calculations, the total of separate tickets is cheaper than the pass for adults. However if you are traveling with families, it could be interesting. And if you plan on taking side trips from the cities, it could be as well.

I don't drink coffee

But I like other drinks and foods! Do you enjoy the free content you find on my blog? All my tips and practical information, without intrusive advertising...

Claire ZigZag


EASTERN EUROPE Itinerary in 2 weeks

Eastern Europe itinerary 2 weeks

Day 1 to 3 - PRAGUE (Czek Republic)

  • Watch time pass at the astronomical tower
  • Visit the castle
  • Feel dizzy looking at the dancing house
  • Wander in the old town
  • Admire the lights at night

Praque stop on itinerary Eastern Europe by train

Below are some suggestions of places to stay in Prague on your Europe 2 week trip:

  • ROYAL - The Grand Mark Prague inside a palace  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • LUXURY - Augustine With spacious rooms, interior garden and beautiful architecture - Check out photos and latest prices
  • MY FAVORITE traditional - Hotel Pod Vezi close to the Charles Bridge with large elegant rooms  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • MY FAVORITE modern - MeetMe23 and its fun unique decor!  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • VALUE FOR MONEY - Josephine Old Town Hotel: fantastic location and spacious rooms for the price - Check out photos and latest prices
  • HOSTEL - Post Hostel Prague with great organization and ambience  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • Or Find your ideal accommodation within the best customer-rated accommodations in Prague
  • For those not afraid of raw meat, the Beef steak tartare
  • Kulajda, the traditional soup
  • Wiener sausages
  • Dishes with lots of sauce

Useful words in Czech

  • Good morning -  Dobré ráno
  • Hello - Ahoj
  • Thank you -  Děkuji
  • Please -  Prosím
  • Currency - Czek Koruna

Check out the best tours and activities in Prague 

Day 4 morning - TRAIN Prague to Vienna

  • Path - Praha Hlavni NADR to Wien HBF
  • Time on train - 4h
  • Type of train - Railjet
  • Suggested time - Morning ride to start visiting Vienna in the afternoon

Day 4 afternoon to 7 - VIENNA (Austria)

  • Feel royal while visiting the Hofburg or the Schönbrunn Palace or the Belvedere Palace
  • Visit the historical center of Vienna around St Stephen's Cathedral
  • Admire the equestrian arts at the Spanish riding school
  • Feel small in front of Vienna's city hall

Vienna stop on itinerary 2 weeks in Europe by train

Below are some suggestions of places to stay in Vienna on your Europe trip:

  • Best areas to stay in Vienna - old town (Innere Stadt), on the island Leopoldstadt and Landstrasse
  • LUXURY - Hotel Sans Souci Wien is a palace with beautiful decor mix of old and new  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • MY FAVORITE - Hotel Am Parkring because I love open views  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • VALUE FOR MONEY - Motel one Wien-Staatsoper with great location, decor and breakfast  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • HOSTEL - Vienna Hostel Ruthersteiner with great quality accommodation for a good price  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • Or Find your ideal accommodations within the best customer-rated accommodations in Vienna
  • Wiener schnitzel (thin breaded pan fried veal cutlet)
  • Sweet apfelstrudel
  • Classic Wiener Sausage
  • The shredded pancake called Kaiserschmarrn
  • Sachertorte (rich chocolate sponge cake)

Useful words in German (Autrian)

  • Good morning - Guten Morgen or Guten Tag
  • Hello - Hallo
  • Thank you - Danke
  • Please - Bitte
  • Currency - Euro

Check out the best tours and activities in Vienna

Day 8 - TRAIN Vienna to Bratislava

  • Path - Wien HBF to Brastislava Hl. St.
  • Time on train - 1h
  • Suggested time - Depending if you want more time to spend in one of the cities

Day 8 afternoon to 10 - BRATISLAVA (Slovakia)

  • Wander in the old town around Michael's gate - pay attention to the colors and details in the facades
  • Visit the Bratislava Castle and the Grassalkovich Palace
  • Hunt the Bronze statues throughout the city

Bratislava stop on itinerary 2 weeks around Europe by train

Below are some suggestions of places to stay in Vienna on your 2-week trip around Europe:

  • LUXURY - Arcadia hotel with great traditional decor and a fantastic spa - Check out photos and latest prices
  • MY FAVORITE - LOFT Hotel Bratislava with beautiful common areas and spacious rooms  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • VALUE FOR MONEY - Aplend City hotel Perugia: comfortable, good location, delicious breakfast  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • HOSTEL - Wild Elephants Hostel is perfectly located  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • Or Find your ideal accommodation within the best customer-rated accommodations in Bratislava
  • Halusky the traditional Slovakian meal (potato dumplings in creamy sauce)
  • The Pressburg cuisine : spicy Hungarian stew

Useful words in Slovak

  • Thank you -  Ďakujem
  • Please -  prosím

Check out the best tours and activities in Bratislava 

Day 11 - TRAIN Bratislava to Budapest

  • Path - Bratislava HL S. to Budapest Nyuga PU
  • Time on train - 2h26
  • Type of train - Cross-border regional train - Eurocity

Day 12 to 14 - BUDAPEST (Hungary)

  • Stroll along the Danube and admire the buildings
  • Explore Castle Hill and visit the Buda Castle
  • Marvel at the architectural details of the Parliament buildings
  • Climb to the dome of St Stephen's Basilica
  • Visit the Fisherman's Bastion and its amazing architecture
  • Marvel at Matthias Church of our Lady and learn about its long history
  • Learn more about the war and go underground in the Hospital bunker

Budapest stop on 2 weeks around Europe itinerary by train

Below are some suggestions of places to stay in Budapest on your 2 week trip around Europe:

  • LUXURY - Boscolo Budapest: amazing common areas and pools, spacious rooms, beautiful architecture  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • MY FAVORITE - Hotel Moments Budapest with intriguing interior design - Check out photos and latest prices
  • VALUE FOR MONEY - BP design Hotel and Apartman with a perfect location in the old town - Check out photos and latest prices
  • HOSTEL - Flow hostel, with bright decor and space  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • Or Find your ideal accommodation within the best customer-rated accommodations in Budapest
  • Goulash (Fulyas), the traditional dish in Hungaria
  • Stuffed paprikas
  • Many soups such as the Jokai Bean Soup (vinegar, sour cream, pork, carrots, beans...) or Lesco (red peppers, tomatoes, onions, lard, paprika)

Useful words in Hungarian

  • Good morning -  Jó reggelt
  • Hello -  Helló
  • Thank you -  Köszönöm
  • Please - Kérem
  • Currency - Hungarian Forint

Check out the best tours and activities in Budapest 

This itinerary enters inside a Eurail Select Pass 4 countries (you can reduce its price by choosing the right option for how many days of travel within how many months) - see the railpass options and click on "Pass" tab

According to my calculations, the total of separate tickets is cheaper than the pass for adults. However if you are traveling with families, it could be interesting. And price may change if some of you travel on weekends.


WESTERN EUROPE Trip Itinerary 2 weeks

train travel in western europe

Day 1 to 4 - LONDON (United Kingdom)

  • Watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace
  • Admire the crown jewels at the Tower of London
  • Visit the many free museums
  • Marvel at Big Ben and the parliament
  • Feel royal at Westminster Abbey Have a stroll in Hyde Park
  • Get a bird eye view of London from the London Eye

London stop on itinerary Europe travel by train

Below are some suggestions of places to stay in London on your 2 week trip in Western Europe:

  • Best areas to stay in London - The West end with Soho, Covent Garden, Leicester square, Oxford street... or Kensington on the Piccadilly line
  • LUXURY - Rosewood London with elegant design and grandiose architecture - Check out photos and latest prices
  • LUXURY Boutique - The Mandrake Hotel has lots of personnality - Check out photos and latest prices
  • MY FAVORITE - Apex Temple Court Hotel wiht amazing views from some of the rooms - Check out photos and latest prices
  • MY FAVORITE Funky - Mondrian London by the Tamise river has a unique design. Have a look!  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • VALUE FOR MONEY - CitizenM London Bankside with beautiful design   - Check out photos and latest prices
  • HOSTEL - Astor Hyde park Hostel in a beautiful Victorian building - Check out photos and latest prices
  • Or Find your ideal accommodations within the best customer-rated accommodations in London
  • Fish and chips late at night
  • A good traditional roast
  • Pie and mashed potatoes with gravy
  • And, of course, the full English breakfast
  • Afternoon tea

Useful words in London

I think you can manage with English LOL

  • Currency - British pound
  • Plug - 3 rectangles (type G)

Check out the best tours and activities in London 

Day 4 - TRAIN London to Paris

  • Path - London St-Pancras to Paris Nord
  • Time on train - 2h25
  • Type of train - Eurostar under the sea
  • Suggested time - Your choice, depending if you want an extra half day in Paris or in London

Day 5 to 7 - Paris (France)

  • Enjoy and evening cruise on the Seine River to see the lights of Paris
  • Or Find your ideal accommodations within the best customer-rated accommodations in Paris
  • Find a great bakery to try delicious cake. The good ones melt and crisp in your mouth and are very light

Visit Paris like a local on your 2 week in Europe itinerary

  • Just go for a walk, take side streets and see where it leads you

Day 8 Morning - TRAIN Paris to Brussels

  • Path - Paris Nord to Bruxelles Midi
  • Time on train - 1h22
  • Type of train - Thalys high speed train
  • Suggested time - Morning to have the afternoon in Brussels
  • Check availability and Book you train tickets with the SNCF Connect platform!

Day 8 afternoon and 9 - BRUSSELS (Belgium)

  • Stand in the middle of the Grand Place (Grote Markt)
  • Laugh at how small the Mannekin Pis is
  • Feel small in front of the Cathedral
  • Admire the buildings around the Place Royale (Koningsplein)

Brussels stop on Europe in 2 weeks itinerary by train

Below are some suggestions of places to stay in Brussels on your 2 week trip in Western Europe:

  • LUXURY - Rocco Forte Hotel Amigo with comfortable rooms and welcoming staff  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • MY FAVORITE - Aloft Brussels Schuman EU hotel for its funky style  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • VALUE FOR MONEY - Hotel Made in Louise with clean bright decor and not far from all attractions  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • HOSTEL - 2GO4 Quality Hostel Brussels grand place has a fantastic location - Check out photos and latest prices
  • Or Find your ideal accommodation within the best customer-rated accommodations in Brussels
  • A delicious freshly cooked waffel
  • Mussels and french fries
  • Meatballs, often a mixture of 2 meats
  • Flemish stew (Carbonnade à la flamande)
  • Grey shrimps, traditionally fished along the coast

Useful words

Belgium has 3 official languages. As you don't know which one the person in front of you speaks, better to use English...

Check out the best tours and activities in Brussels 

Day 10 Morning - TRAIN Brussels to Amsterdam

  • Path - Bruxelles Midi to Amsterdam Zuid WT
  • Time on train - 1h50
  • Type of train - Take the Thalys to have a no change train

Day 10 afternoon and 11 - AMSTERDAM (The Netherlands)

  • Stroll the city center and appreciate the its unique style
  • Get flooded by art at the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum
  • Travel back in history at the Anne Frank Museum
  • Visit the Royal palace

Amsterdam stop on Europe Tour in 2 weeks itinerary by train

  • LUXURY - Waldorf Astoria: a breath of fresh air  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • EXTRAVAGANT LUXURY - Hotel Twenty Seven: for a stay you will never forget - Check out photos and latest prices
  • MY FAVORITE - Hotel IX Nine Streets: what I imagine when I think of Amsterdam - Check out photos and latest prices
  • DIFFERENT - HotelBoat Fiep, sleep on a boat!  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • HOSTEL - Generator Amsterdam right by a huge park  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • Or Find your ideal accommodations within the best customer-rated accommodations in Amsterdam
  • Bitterballe, deep fried meatballs
  • Stroopwafel: 2 small thin waffles stuck together with syrup
  • Dutch fries with crazy condiments mixture
  • Oliebollen, deep fried sweet dumplings
  • The traditional ginger Cake: Ontbijtkoek

Useful words in Dutch

  • Good morning -  Goedemorgen
  • Thank you - Dank je
  • Please -  alsjeblieft

Check out the best tours and activities in Amsterdam 

Day 12 - TRAIN Amsterdam to Berlin

  • Path - Amsterdam Centraal to Berlin HBF
  • Time on train - 6h22 direct or 6h07 with one connection
  • Type of train - Intercity / Regional trains

Day 12 to 14 - BERLIN (Germany)

  • Feel peace in front of the Brandenburg Gate
  • Climb in circles to the top of the Parliament dome (book in advance)
  • Remember history at the Berlin wall
  • Forget the city when wandering through the Tiergarten
  • Visit the many museums

Berlin stop on 2 week Europe Tour itinerary by train

Below are some suggestions of places to stay in Berlin on your 2 week trip in Western Europe:

  • Best areas to stay in Berlin - Spandauer Vorstadt in the downtown area or Prenzlauer berg for a less touristy option
  • LUXURY - Rocco Forte Hotel de Rome: what a pool!!!  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • MY FAVORITE - 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin: fun and with a fantastic view over the trees of the zoos  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • VALUE FOR MONEY - Hotel Q! Berlin elegant modern decor et près des transports  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • HOSTEL - The Circus Hostels in the city center  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • Or Find your ideal accommodation within the best customer-rated accommodations in Berlin
  • Pretzels - I love them! 
  • Kartoffelpuffer - grated potatoes, flour, eggs and onions
  • Currywurst - pork sausage with curry powder
  • Apfelstrudel for dessert
  • Berliner Pfannkuche (similar to a doughnut)

Useful words in German

Check out the best tours and activities in Berlin 

Is a pass worth it?

You would need the Eurail Global Pass to cover 5 countries (you can reduce price by choosing the right option for how many days of travel within how many months) - see the railpass options and click on "Pass" tab

According to my calculations, there is a chance that the pass can be cheaper than the individual tickets depending on the days of your travels. To be calculated.


CENTRAL WEST EUROPE Itinerary 2 weeks

2 weeks in Europe Itinerary central

Day 1 to 3 - LUXEMBOURG

  • Stroll through the old town and admire the views from Chemin de la Corniche
  • Visit the underground tunnels (under the Bock Castle)
  • Explore the Palace of the Grand Duke

Luxembourg stop on 2 week Europe Tour itinerary by train

  • LUXURY - Le Place d'Armes: perfect location, charming decor, space  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • VALUE FOR MONEY - Grand Hotel Cravat, lots of space for price  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • HOSTEL - Youth Hostel Luxembourg city only 10 min from one of the main squares  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • Or Find your ideal accommodation within the best customer-rated accommodations in Luxembourg
  • Bouneschlupp - thick soup with green beans, potatoes and bacon
  • Friture de la Moselle - fried freshwater fish from La Moselle region
  • Gromperekichelcher - mixture of grated potatoes, chopped onions, parsley, egg, flour
  • Stews during game season 

Useful words in Luxembourgish

  • Good morning -  Gudde Moien
  • Thank you - Merci
  • Please -  Wann ech glift

Check out the best tours and activities in Luxembourg 

Day 4 morning - TRAIN Luxembourg to Strasbourg

  • Path - Luxembourg LUX to Strasbourg via Metz or Lorraine TGV stations
  • Time on train - 4h (one connection)
  • Type of train - Regional Trains
  • Suggested time - morning

Day 4 afternoon to 6 - STRASBOURG (France)

  • Take the time to admire the facade of the cathedral before entering
  • Stroll through la Petite France, the old neighborhood and its typical houses
  • Enjoy a boat ride through this area for different perspectives

Strasbourg stop on 2 week Europe Tour itinerary by train

  • LUXURY - Hotel Régent Petite France in the heart of the old town  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • MY FAVORITE - Hotel Graffalgar with unique decors made by artists in each room. I visited several of them and they are fun! - Check out photos and latest prices
  • VALUE FOR MONEY - Le Kleber Hotel, very central  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • Or Find your ideal accommodation within the best customer-rated accommodations in Strasbourg
  • Pretzels - I love them!  Twisted bread with salt
  • Flammenkuche (tarte flambée) - thin base with cream, onions and various toppings
  • Sausages and Sauerkraut (pickled cabbage)
  • Riesling wine (white)
  • Good morning - Bonjour

Check out the best tours and activities in Strasbourg 

Day 7 - TRAIN Strasbourg to Munich

  • Path - Strasbourg to Muenchen Pasing (via Stuttgart or Mannheim)
  • Time on train - 3h30 to 5hours (1 connection)
  • Type of train - High speed trains (TGV - ICE)

Day 8 to 10 - MUNICH (Germany)

  • Explore the museums and buildings of the Residenz
  • Enjoy the modern and historical vibe of Munich at Marienplatz
  • Be surprised by the architecture of the Cathedral Frauenkirche
  • Breathe in the English Garden (and maybe spot some people surfing on a small river)
  • Feel Royal at the Nymphenberg Palace
  • Take an excursion to the famous Neuschwanstein Palace

Munich stop on 2 week Europe Tour itinerary by train

  • LUXURY - Rocco Forte The Charles: stunning decor and a great pool  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • MY FAVORITE - Hotel Schlicker for the history - Check out photos and latest prices
  • VALUE FOR MONEY - Hotel Bayer's with good location and spacious rooms for price - Check out photos and latest prices
  • HOSTEL - CVJM Jugendhotel Munchen  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • Or Find your ideal accommodation within the best customer-rated accommodations in Munich
  • Sausages, Schnitzel and Pretzels
  • Sauerkraut (pickled cabbage)
  • Apfelstrudel

Check out the best tours and activities in Munich 

Day 11 morning - TRAIN Munich to Salzburg

  • Path - Muenchen HBF to Salzburg HBF
  • Time on train - 2h
  • Suggested time - Morning 

Day 11 afternoon to 14 - SALZBURG (Austria)

  • Admire the architectural masterpieces from a river cruise
  • Visit the Fortress
  • Stroll the narrow streets of the old town
  • Have fun at the toy museum

Salzburg stop on 2 week Europe Tour itinerary by train

  • LUXURY - Hotel Sacher Salzburg, royal feel and royal views  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • MY FAVORITE - Hotel Schloss Mönchstein, luxury as well as amazing views!!! - Check out photos and latest prices
  • VALUE FOR MONEY - Star Inn Hotel Premium Gablerbrau: great location and fantastic rooms for price - Check out photos and latest prices
  • HOSTEL - Yoho International Youth Hostel: clean, comfortable and not too far from the attractions  - Check out photos and latest prices
  • Or Find your ideal accommodations within the best customer-rated accommodations in Salzburg
  • The essential - Wiener-Schnitzel
  • Tafelspitz - boiled beef
  • Strudel for dessert as well, or Sachertorte (rich chocolate sponge cake)
  • Mozart balls - pistachio marzipan, nougat and chocolate

Check out the best tours and activities in Salzburg 

Is a rail pass worth it?

This itinerary enters inside a Eurail Select Pass 4 countries (you can reduce price by choosing the right option  for how many days of travel within how many months) - see the railpass options and click on "Pass" tab

According to my calculations, the total of separate tickets is cheaper than the pass for adults. However if you are traveling with families, it could be interesting. And separate ticket prices may change if some of your travels are on weekends.

2 weeks in Europe by car alternative - intro

You can also visit Europe by car. However remember that distance are quite important for example:

  • Paris to Zurich = 7h
  • Paris to Munich = 8h30
  • Paris ot Barcelona = 10h
  • Paris to Milan = 9h
  • Paris to Luxembourg = 4h
  • Paris to Brussels = 4h

When renting a car, always check the condition and if crossing a border is allowed! See my favorite platform  Discovercars .

And check out all my tips:

  • Best car rental companies: how to choose
  • What to check when renting a car
  • Renting a car in Spain
  • Renting a car in Portugal , and especially in Faro
  • Renting a car in Slovenia
  • Renting a car in Scotland
  • Renting a car in Mallorca
  • Renting a car in Madeira
  • Renting a car in Crete
  • Renting a car in Iceland
  • Renting a car in Santorini
  • Renting a car in France

TIPS for your City Tour of Europe in 14 days

Tip 1. choose central hotels.

If hesitating between hotels with only a 5 or 10 dollars difference, choose one that is centrally located (even if more expensive) in order to save time and transportation costs.

Internet while in Europe

TIP 2. Don't book round trip flight

We often think that round trip flights are the cheaper option, but sometimes multi-city tickets are not much more expensive and you will save a day of travel between your end point and your original point as well as travel cost.

TIP 3. Travel with a universal adapter

Sadly, countries are not able to agree on one electrical standard. Most of the countries listed here  use the 2 round plug, but the UK for example uses a different one. Better to travel with a universal adapter 

train travel in western europe

TIP 4. Be ready for all kinds of weather

This is Europe... You can have all four seasons even in Summer. So make sure you travel with layers of clothes to be able to vary from stinking hot to rainy to windy and to cold.

TIP 5. Travel with insurance

Be reasonable and travel worry-free. Purchase a travel insurance. I personally use World Nomads.  Get a quote online here .

TIP 6. Wear sensible shoes

In all these old town centers there are a lot of cobbled streets. So wear sensible shoes to avoid twisting your ankles.

TIP 7. Don't bring a huge luggage

Be reasonable when packing. There will be a lot of walking with luggage inside train stations and between train stations and hotels so pack light and reduce the size of your backpack or suitcase. 

TIP 8. Use my Checklists

I will not re-list here all the things to think about - Check out my Travel preparation and packing Checklists

Typical Scams in Europe

Don't worry, there are not scammers at every corner, but it is better to be aware of what they typically do to avoid them altogether. I once fell for one when I was younger and traveling in Asia, even though it was a very common one, but I was not aware and very trusting back then 🙂

So here are the typical scams you could encounter on your 2 week trip around Europe:

SCAM 1 - The Bracelet

They make a special bracelet just for you and aggressively (and very fast) attach one to your wristt. Once it is attached on your wrist, you don't have the scissors to cut it and they want you to pay. This is very frequent at the bottom of Butte Montmartre in Paris for example (before climbing to the Sacré-Coeur. So cross your arms and keep walking

SCAM 2 - The Found ring

Someone picks up a ring in front of you and asks if you dropped it. You say no. They look at it and pretend it is pure gold and offer to sell it to you.

SCAM 3 - The petition

One of the women distracts you with explaining the cause behind the petition, while the others try opening your bag

There are a few more listed on Rick Steves 's website here , but as a general rule you can still trust people 🙂

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Travel Europe Itinerary 2 weeks

Reader Interactions

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July 3, 2018 at 8:09 PM

please email me the total cost of this particular tour

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May 30, 2019 at 8:51 PM

She’s not a travel agent. You’ll have to do the math yourself.

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February 13, 2019 at 11:44 PM

What’s the total cost. For. The Latin. Europe. Trip?

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February 14, 2019 at 12:05 AM

Hi Sorry I am not a travel agent so I don’t have package prices. And your total cost will depend on the period you travel around, the level of accommodations you will choose, the activities you will book… this is why I don’t mention prices. There are many ways to travel. I wish you wonderful travels!

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February 18, 2019 at 3:13 AM

Hello Claire,

If we went on the 2 week Western European vacation this summer, do you have like an approximate of what you think it might cost? I’m thinking like $10k? Am I crazy😜

February 18, 2019 at 8:31 AM

Hi Erin That is totally impossible to say. Between staying in a Hostel dorm or at a luxury 5 star hotels, eating out or not, going on tours, visiting paying attractions or not. The price can vary to extremes… You have to see what you have in mind (looking at hotel and tour prices) and do the rough calculation.

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March 18, 2019 at 6:13 PM

it was mentioned that : “choose the more central one (even if more expensive) in order to save time and transportation costs.” what will be the transportation from ..more central hotel to train station ? and how far is it from central one to the station ?

March 18, 2019 at 6:38 PM

What I mean is to choose a more centrally located hotel in each city, because even if you pay more you will save time and money in term of transportation to all the main points of interest.

March 18, 2019 at 6:41 PM

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April 7, 2019 at 11:12 AM

Hi there, if I travel Western Europe based on your suggested itineraries, do you think how many days Europe rail pass should I take? Please advise & many thanks!

April 9, 2019 at 2:55 PM

Dear Jayson, As I have written, I believe separate tickets might be cheaper than a pass. As passes only include 4 countries, you need to do different tests based on your dates to see what is the most interesting. I wish you wonderful travels!

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April 12, 2019 at 6:34 PM

Good day Thank you very much for such detailed info. With regards to the train for the Latin Europe tour, is it the Eurorail? If yes, are there short trips to tourist destinations in each country with the Eurorail as well? We are a family of 5, so I’m trying to calculate if it’s a good option to purchase the full 1 month family ticket or to purchase individual tickets for the long trips between countries and then utilize Uber to the tourist sites. What’s your suggestion please?

April 13, 2019 at 5:30 PM

Yes the passes are the Eurail passes. They have changed the system. Now it is one country or all of them. You can go to side cities. The price depends on the number of days you take trains. If you only travel 2 weeks as per the itinerary, I don’t recommend trying to get out of those cities. There is already a lot to see. I am confused by your suggestion of Train vs Uber. Uber rides to other towns would cost you a lot of money. They can only replace suburban trains not intercity trips. And I don’t think the Eurail cover suburban trains (such as the RER in Paris). The best is to define exactly were you want to go and identify the days you would take the train and test the price given online by the Eurail system. I wish you wonderful travels!

May 13, 2019 at 1:30 PM

Good day Your guide is a great help. Thank you very much for all the information supplied. If I’m planning to travel from Rome to Sorrento to Florence to Venice to Switzerland to Paris, is the Eurorail the best option or are there better fast trains, especially in Italy? I’m doing my tour privately. Thank you

May 13, 2019 at 3:30 PM

Hi I do believe that you can book high speed trains with some of the Eurail passes. But I am sorry I can’t tell you which is the best option. It depends on who travels (age, discount…), when (prices of trains change depending on the months and the days of travel…), on which trains… You have to play with the booking tools to be able to compare. Have a great trip!

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August 5, 2019 at 7:36 AM

Mad respect for your travel itinerary. So well organized and correct with all that I’ve been reading so I trust your judgement. Hubby and I are first time travelers & have never been to Europe. We are going for 2 weeks and leave in a few days and still haven’t figured out the exact itinerary! Here’s what we were thinking: We land in Amsterdam first. swing over to Belgium, over to Nuremberg Germany to Prague, then over to Salzburg Austria to Venice to Florence to Rome to Strasbourgh France to Paris then back to Amsterdam. I told my husband tonight I think we may be trying to bite off more than we can chew. Could you actually hit all of these places, enjoy them for a day or two by train? Thoughts?

August 5, 2019 at 8:46 PM

Hi Lisa, That does seem like a lot, especially with Amsterdam and Rome being at 2 opposite ends. You are listing 10 towns for 2 weeks! You should plan at least 2 or 3 days per town, to really be able to get the vibe of them + traveling times. I wish you wonderful travels. Claire

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September 30, 2019 at 6:03 PM

Amazing post! We are interested in Western Europe and wondering if you think Milan or other cities in Northern Italy would be manageable too? Where do you think you would sneak it in?

September 30, 2019 at 11:04 PM

Thanks Lauren, I am sorry but within the 2 week-timeframe, 5 cities is already a lot. And Italy is not close by. I would not try to fit it in. I wish you wonderful travels! Claire

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November 11, 2019 at 7:43 AM

Re: Eastern and Central West

We are already staying in Prague for 10 days. We would like to visit the surrounding Countries after Prague for 9-10 days. We have been tossing around taking one day trips from Prague. or attempting it on our own via air or train. We realize air can waste a lot of time.

Thankfully we found your train suggestions.

The Eastern is the 1st choice, since we will be in Prague already. Then some of the Central West areas are the Next most appealing. Such as Strasbourg, France and Salzburg, Austria.

We would be most thankful if you can provide further direction on what would be most realistic.

Sincerely Sonia

November 11, 2019 at 7:20 PM

Hi Sonia I am sorry but I don’t have the time to create personalized itineraries. I recommend not shortening the days in each city. It will create frustration and be very tiring. Better to do less cities but well, rather than jump from one to the other every day. I wish you wonderful travels! Claire

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January 13, 2020 at 2:58 PM

Came across your website whilst researching train travel to Europe. I am planning to visit Amsterdam (3 days), Belgium (3 days), Switzerland (2 days), Munich (2 days), Salzburg (2days), Vienna (2 days), Prague (3 days) and finally Berlin (3 days). Is the order of travel suitable. Is this itinerary a bit rushed? We are a couple in our 60s.

Secondly, do i need a eurail pass. How does it work? Can I use this pass on local trains.

I am open to suggestions..

Many thanks for your help. Terry Moodley

January 13, 2020 at 6:08 PM

Hi Terry Big trip! A few pieces of advice: 1. That will all depend on the days you are traveling – the more complicated part of the trip are Belgium to the east and Vienna to go back North. So check those first to make sure you find travel plans that are not too complicated (all the others trips you have listed have shorter and frequent lines so you will always be able to make it fit your itinerary). 2. I would skip Switzerland. With only 2 days and the long trip to get there, you won’t have time to explore the best of Switzerland. It will give you one day to travel between Brussels and Munich and one day between Vienna and Prague 3. You can use local trains with the pass. I am not an expert but every time I did calculation for itineraries, I have found it was cheaper to buy train tickets directly than to take the pass. It depends on who is traveling and when… you have to calculate to see what is more interesting – I recommend you read their descriptions I wish you a wonderful trip! Claire

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Passport Symphony

The ultimate guide to train travel in Europe

If you’re planning a big Eurotrip soon, you’ll be happy to hear that there’s no need to fly within Europe. The train system in Western Europe is so advanced, you can travel the entire continent without taking a single flight. If this sounds interesting, keep reading; this ultimate guide will tell you everything you need to know about train travel in Europe.

Why should you choose train travel

train travel europe

The best reason why should you travel by train in Europe is that you always arrive in the city center . Most airports are located very far away from the city and you have to waste more time and money to get to the city center. That’s not the case with train stations.

Another advantage is that you don’t have to go through long airport lines and security checks . You just arrive at the train station (in the city center), get your ticket, and board the train. A lot of rail services nowadays even issue e-tickets that are sent directly to your phone. This means that even if there is a queue at the train station, you can always avoid it.

train station europe

Unlike traveling by plane, there are no luggage limitations and fees . And, there are no limitations on what you can carry and what you can’t. This means you can even get a few beers to make the trip even better.

If you want to visit a small town, you don’t have to Google for the nearest airport . Most European countries have well-connected railway networks in which every small town is included and there are multiple trains traveling every relation in a day.

Statistically, train travel in Europe is a lot more reliable than taking a flight. On average, trains in Europe are on-time more than 90% of the time. Flights, on the other hand, depart/arrive on time only 65% of the time.

Finally, trains are more comfortable compared to flights. Additionally, you can enjoy the natural beauty of the surroundings and even save some money on accommodation by taking overnight trains.

Disadvantages of train travel in Europe

train street

Unlike the advantages, the disadvantages aren’t many. The first one that comes to mind is the cost. Tickets for high-speed trains can get expensive but if you book in advance, you can always get a good deal.

Another obvious disadvantage is that trains are slow when it comes to long-distance travel . If you’re planning to go from Southern Italy to Scotland, your time is limited, and your scheduled is already booked with a few different tours in Europe , this is clearly not a good option.

Finally, a lot of travelers are confused by the railway system and find it too complex at times. However, that’s what this article is about; to clear all of your doubts regarding train travel in Europe and teach you everything you need to know.

Ticket pricing 101

railway station germany

There are two ways of train ticket pricing- fixed and variable. Variable fares change based on multiple different factors but mostly, supply and demand for a particular date. All high-speed trains use this pricing model. If you want to get the best price on trains that use this pricing model, it’s best to book in advance. However, if you decide to do this, you lose flexibility because the cheapest tickets are usually the ones that are non-refundable.

Fixed fares , on the other hand, are determined only by the distance the train covers. This pricing model is more common for older and slower, regional trains. With this pricing model, it doesn’t matter when you buy the ticket because the price never changes.

Types of Rail Passes

Eurail pass

Many travelers visiting Europe choose to buy a pass because it can save you some money if you plan to use the train a lot. Additionally, rail passes give you the flexibility of being able to use the pass in different countries without struggling to book tickets for every train journey you take. In general, there are two different passes- Interrail for people who live in Europe and Eurail for people who live outside of Europe.

However, keep in mind that if you really want to save on train travel in Europe, you’d probably save a lot more if you book every individual journey a month in advance. It might be more time consuming but it will certainly save you more money than getting a pass.

With that being said, let’s see what types of passes can you choose from. If you’re planning to travel by train to more than three different countries in Europe, consider the global pass. This pass allows you unlimited travel to every Eurail participant country for as many days, weeks or months as you choose. There are two different global passes; a continuous pass and a select pass.

The continuous pass gets you unlimited travel in all of the above-mentioned countries for a duration between 15 days and 3 months. The select pass gives you 5-15 individual travel days (that don’t have to be consecutive) within the next two months. However, keep in mind that the select pass is limited to only 3, 4 or 5 bordering countries .

Alternatively, if you’re planning to stay in one country longer, you can get a single-country pass . This pass gives you eight travel days in one country but you have to use it within a month.

Tips for booking your tickets online

train travel europe

  • If you know which destination you’re planning to cover , see which specific operators travel there and book your ticket directly through their website. If you’re looking for trains from and to London , check out Eurostar; for trains from and to Paris, check out Thalys or B-Europe, for trains between Italy and France, check out Thello or Loco2, for trains anywhere in Germany, check out Bahn.De, etc.
  • Sometimes, it’s better to break the journey down . You might have to visit several different websites and book multiple tickets, but it’s worth it. For example, if you’re traveling from Brussels to Vienna, you won’t be able to find a direct train on However, if you search for a train from Brussels to Frankfurt and Frankfurt to Vienna on the same website, you’ll find tickets that often cost even less than the initial booking.
  • Don’t go for first-class . With most train operators, 2nd-class is almost as comfortable even in Eastern Europe, especially when riding in some of the modern trains. Sure, first-class passengers get wider seats, more room, table for two (and/or solo seats), and on some trains, seat-service and food & drink (even though the last one is more of an exception than it is a fact) and that’s pretty much it.
  • If you’re taking a sleeper train, the class is irrelevant . On sleeper trains, your comfort will depend on the type of sleeping accommodation you chose. There are three options- an ordinary seat, a couchette, and a sleeper. The 2nd-class couchette is always more comfortable than a first-class seat.
  • Online booking for international trains to countries like Turkey and Ukraine isn’t available (at the time of writing this article). If you’re planning to visit these countries, you have to book by phone or at the station.

Does it matter which website you use to book your pass/ticket?

book train europe

Every country in Europe has its national train operator and needless to say, all operators have different ticketing systems. Most operators offer cheap tickets if you book in advance but you can only book on their website or through an agency that’s cooperating with them directly. However, these agencies will always charge an extra for their commission. That’s why the national train operators are always the best place to book your train tickets in Europe and you should be careful which websites do you buy your tickets from.

Links to Some National Railway Websites:

Austrian Railways

Belgian Railways

Danish Railways

Finnish Railways

French Railways

German Railways

Irish Railways

Italian Railways

Netherlands Railways

Norwegian Railways

Polish Railways

Spanish Railways 

Swedish Railways

Swiss Railways

United Kingdom Railways

There’s no such thing as a website with universal cheap tickets

There’s not one website that can get you the cheapest prices to all destinations around the continent but some agencies will try to convince you that they can. Don’t take their word for it. If you want to visit more European countries while traveling by train, the cheapest way to book your tickets is through the websites of the national train operator of that particular country. This leads us to one of the most common questions travelers ask…

Book in advance or buy it at the station?

train station antwerp

In this section, I’ll try to answer this answer in the most simple way possible. For starters, you need to distinguish between three concepts of train ticketing; local and regional trains anywhere, long-distance trains in France , Italy, Spain, Portugal and Sweden, and long-distance trains in the UK , Germany, Denmark, Austria, and Central & Eastern Europe.

When it comes to local and regional trains, the ticket price is fixed most of the time so you don’t get anything by booking in advance. Reservation is not only not compulsory but also not even possible on most train operators. Additionally, it’s almost impossible that all of these trains to be completely booked, so there’s really no use in booking in advance anyway.

Booking your ticket for long-distance trains in Italy, France, Portugal, Spain , and Sweden isn’t very different than booking a flight ticket . The ticket prices vary just like airfare and the earlier you book your ticket, the cheaper the price will be. Another similarity to flight tickets is that if you want your ticket to be fully-flexible and refundable, you have to pay extra. Every ticket comes with an automatically-reserved seat and if you miss your train, you usually can’t hop on the next one.

On the other hand, some European countries like Austria , Germany, Denmark, and the UK still have the old-school way of train tickets booking. The train tickets have full flexibility, the price is fixed on that particular day (if you’re buying your ticket right before departure) and if you miss your train you can always hop on the next one. However, keep in mind that these tickets are more expensive but you can still save if you book in advance. If you want to reserve a specific seat, you have to pay a small fee.

How far in advance can you book?

train travel europe

If you live in Europe, this section probably won’t be of any interest to you. However, if you live outside of Europe and want to plan your once-in-a-lifetime Eurotrip in advance, keep reading. As mentioned above, there are different train operators in different countries and they open their bookings at different times. For the sake of practicality, we grouped operators in groups according to when they open their bookings.

60 days ahead

Most countries in Central and Eastern Europe allow train booking as early as 60 days before the trip. This list includes Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia , Romania , Bulgaria , Croatia, Serbia, and Macedonia. Additionally, domestic trains in Spain and Switzerland are also available only 60 days before the trip and in some regions, 45-50 days before the trip.

90-120 days ahead

Most of the French domestic and international TGV can be booked three months in advance. But if you are traveling during the busy summer months, some operators offer to book up to 4 months in advance. Additionally, the Paris-Turin-Milan TGV, Paris-Barcelona TGV, and Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam are also available for booking 120 days in advance.

180+ days ahead

Eurostar allows booking up to 6 months in advance. Most IDGV trains in France can also be booked up to 180 days before the trip. This is also valid for all tickets bought from the German Railways and the Austrian Railways.

How to check train schedules?

empty train station europe

The best way to check the schedule for most trains in different European countries is the Bahn.De website . Since this is the official website of the German Railways, you can’t find the prices for train rides outside of Germany but you can see the train times from all train operators in Europe, except for a few private railways.

Don’t forget to check your ticket delivery options

train germany countryside

This is very important. If you’re not sure or unfamiliar with a ticket-selling website, always check the ticket delivery options. For example, you can buy a ticket for a train from Vienna to Venice from the Italian Railway website but unfortunately, tickets for this journey can only be sent to an Italian address or picked up at a train station in Italy, both of which will be of no use to you, unless, of course, you’re in Italy before the trip.

One solution would be to book the same route through the Austrian Railways which allows e-tickets for this route in both directions. It sounds easy when I explain it like this but if you don’t know this before your trip, you can make some costly mistakes .

Senior and youth discounts

senior discount train

Unlike what you might hear, senior and youth discounts are oftentimes irrelevant. Yes, they do exist but oftentimes, they’re more expensive than the regular tickets. Additionally, you don’t have to search far and wide for these discounts; most booking websites ask for your age before booking your ticket and if a discount is applicable, it will be presented to you as an option.

If you’re planning to buy a railcard for seniors/under 26, know that it is useful for frequent travelers but not very useful for most tourists. These cards can be bought for a fixed fee and valid for a year on all domestic trains but are rarely applicable to international journeys. Railcards can usually only be bought on the spot and there aren’t many ways in which you can get it online.

So, if you’re a student traveling to college with a train every day, this is great for you. However, if you’re a tourist that will spend a couple of weeks in that country, this might not be a good option for you. Additionally, this card can get you up to 25% off on a train when you pay for the ticket but you can save much more if you book your ticket online a couple of months in advance.

Train travel in Europe with children

If you’re traveling with a toddler , you should know that generally, infants under a certain age don’t need a ticket for trains but there are some exceptions. For a complete list of all age limitations in different countries, check out this page . Moreover, the fact that you don’t need to pay a ticket for your toddler doesn’t mean that they will get a seat for themselves. If you want this, you’ll have to pay a child fare. Child fare is always cheaper than adult fare but you might come across a couple of pitfalls while trying to book your ticket online.

If the child fare is more expensive than the adult fare , it’s probably a system mistake. This happens when the train operator didn’t make an advance-purchase fare for children or when the website isn’t sophisticated enough to distinguish child fare from the adult fare. You should also be aware that some websites apply the wrong age limits when booking child fare tickets, mostly because of technical limitations, making you pay extra when you actually don’t have to.

For example, there are several websites that blindly follow the French Railways age limits but the limits in France are more restrictive than some other countries in Europe. Just another good reason to always book your tickets through the national railway operators’ websites.

What about splitting a trip and stopovers?

europe train stopover

Unlike booking a flight, you won’t find the cheapest deal on getting from point A to point B just by searching for it on a website. If you’re planning to travel Europe by train, you need to get creative to save some money. For example, if you’re traveling from Berlin to Florence , you’ll find a train on the German Railways website but this isn’t necessarily the cheapest option. Oftentimes, you can actually save a lot if you split up your journey, especially when traveling long distances. The obvious best solution is to break-down the journey and book your tickets with different train operators for different parts of the journey.

On the other hand, if you want to make a stopover at point B before reaching point C from point A, there are a couple of things you need to be aware of. First, if your ticket is train-specific, you can’t use it to make a stopover. What does this mean? If you bought a ticket from Paris to Amsterdam, you can’t get off in Brussels and catch the next train to Amsterdam. In other words, the unused portion of your ticket goes to waste. The same thing applies to trains with compulsory reservations. Regional and local trains, on the other hand, are perfect for stopovers because the tickets are not limited on one specific train.

Hack : If you want to, you can actually pre-program your stopover and save a lot of money! Just go to the German Railways website and use the “add intermediate stop” feature. Enter your stopover destination and the number of hours you want to spend in that destination and the system will generate the cheapest possible option. In order for this to work, at least one of your stopover destinations need to be in Germany.

What about booking by phone?

europe train travel

If by any chance, the website you’re trying to book through is experiencing technical difficulties, you should always try to contact that train operator by phone. Moreover, you should also always reach out by phone if you have any specific requirements that can’t be arranged when booking through the website (ex. A specific seat or specific carriage). In some countries (mostly in Eastern Europe) booking online simply isn’t an option. And finally, if you have a more complex journey in mind and despite everything you read online, you’re still not sure how to complete that booking online, you should always call and ask for help.

Useful apps for train travel in Europe

Railplanner is a free train timetable app that works offline. You can download it in your phone and check train times without using the internet. The app is super-quick and gets updated almost in real-time and covers almost all trains in Europe.

DB Navigator works in a similar way as Railplanner and basically shows you all the train timetables from the German Railway website. The app needs Wi-Fi or mobile data to operate but it also has its own very useful journey planner to help you plan your upcoming trip.

How does checking in work?

check in TGV

Generally, there’s no check-in on most trains in Europe. You just find your train on the departure board, head to the platform, and hop on your train. And for most trains, you don’t have to be there x minutes before departure. If a train is leaving at 10 AM, the doors close at 09:59. It’s that simple. Additionally, most railway stations in Europe don’t have any barrier between the entrance door and the platforms where the trains leave from and this makes things even easier.

Regarding the ticket checking, this generally occurs on the train during the journey and not at the station itself. However, this doesn’t mean that you can just get on the train. I mean, technically, you can, but if you get caught, in most countries, you’ll have to pay a fine that surpasses the price of the ticket. Also, don’t forget that this isn’t a flight. Don’t expect the train to start boarding an hour before departure. This usually happens 10-20 minutes before the train leaves the railway station. So, if your train still isn’t on the departure table 40 minutes before the scheduled departure, don’t panic.

With that being said, there are a couple of exceptions that you should know about. For example, if you use Eurostar, you have to check-in at least 30 minutes before departure because you have to go through passport control and X-ray security checks. You can find more information about their check-in process on the Eurostar page . Another exception that you should know of is high-speed trains in Spain. Usually, there’s always a brief X-ray luggage scan before boarding. This doesn’t take a lot of time but you shouldn’t arrive at the train station one minute before departure either.

Related: Interesting facts about Spain you probably didn’t know

Is there passport control on international trains?

passport train travel

As you may or may not know, most countries in Europe are a part of the Schengen zone and technically, there aren’t any borders between them. However, when entering countries that aren’t a part of the EU (ex. Serbia , Bosnia & Herzegovina, Macedonia , etc.), there will be a passport control at the border station along the way. But if you’re traveling only in countries that are a part of the Schengen Zone and the EU, you don’t have to worry about international borders and passport controls.

How long do connections take?

Physically, it takes roughly a minute or two to step off the train, cross the platform and board your next train. As stated previously, there is no check-in procedures or any other barriers that separate two different platforms on a train station (except maybe an escalator). Hence, switching trains is usually quick and easy but there are a few things you should be aware of.

If you’re taking a frequent local train, you won’t need more than a few minutes to make a connection. If you booked a train-specific ticket, though, and especially if it’s a long journey, I would try to leave at least 30 minutes between the two train journeys. Even though trains in Europe are extremely reliable and rarely late, you never know what might happen. With that being said, the length of the connection isn’t about how much time you’ll need to switch trains. It’s about risk management and the potential consequences of missing your connection.

Statistically, 85-90% of high-speed trains arrive on time and 95% of them arrive within 15 minutes of the scheduled departure. This means that the probability of your train running late is very low. Unless you’re traveling in the Balkan countries or taking a long-distance sleeper train. In these cases, always leave some buffer time between two connections.

Furthermore, we’ll take a look at several different scenarios to help you plan your connection.

When the connection is a local unreserved train

local train germany

In countries like Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, if you miss your unreserved train, you can always board the next train going to the same destination. In this case, allowing only a couple of minutes to make your connection is completely fine because even if you miss your train, the consequences aren’t big. Unless that’s the last train for the day and you have to wait until tomorrow for the next one.

When the connection is a reserved train


Needless to say, if you have a ticket on an all-reserved train, you don’t want to miss it because your ticket is only valid for this train. You can’t take the next train and, hence, you should leave enough time to make your connection and leave 10-15 minutes of buffer time in case your journey is slightly delayed.

When the connection is an overnight sleeper train

sleeper train

If your connection is an overnight sleeper train, you just can’t afford to miss it. So, even though there isn’t a rule of thumb for this, in my opinion, it’s best to plan to reach the train station at least one hour before the departure of your overnight train. If you reach too early, you can always grab something to eat or enjoy a cup of coffee before the departure. In theory, 10-15 minutes is more than enough for you to get off your train and board the overnight train. After all, 95% of trains arrive on time or within 15 minutes of the scheduled arrival. But what if your train is a part of the other 5%?

So, even if the website you’re booking your ticket suggests you an alternative that leaves only 10-15 minutes between your first train and your overnight train, I strongly suggest you look for other options.

A few tips regarding train connections

train connection

First and foremost, always be realistic when planning your connections. As I said, changing trains doesn’t take more than a couple of minutes but you never know when things might go wrong. Always think about the consequences. If you’re arriving on a long-distance train and are supposed to catch a local train that runs every 30 minutes, you don’t have to leave a lot of time in between, especially if you can save some money by booking this itinerary.

Even if you miss your local train, you can always catch the next one. However, if your onward connection is a reserved long-distance train or a sleeper train, I’d suggest you always leave some buffer time because if you miss one of these two trains, there’s no coming back and the money you spent for your ticket go to waste.

Know your rights. Before you travel by train anywhere in Europe, read the international conditions of carriage to know in which cases you missing a connection gives you the right to board the next train. Generally, if both of your journeys are on one ticket, you can board the next reserved train, even if you missed the one you were supposed to take before. However, today, most tickets come separately. Fortunately, in most railway stations, the staff are very kind and always try to help you out.

Finally, if you think travel insurance will help you with your missed connections, you’re wrong. Most travel insurance providers don’t quite understand the complexity of multi-leg train travel in Europe and hence, don’t provide a lot of packages to cater to people who travel by train around Europe. One exception of this is SafetyWing . I’ve been using them for years and I just can’t recommend them enough.

What if you miss a connection?

train travel europe

For starters, check out the Agreement for Journey Continuation to learn what happens when you miss a connection.

But if you actually miss your connection, the first thing to do is get your ticket endorsed by the staff of the train operator at the interchange station. If your ticket is with Eurostar, their staff always helps people who missed their connection re-book a ticket for the next train going to their destination. But whether your ticket is with Eurostar or another train operator, don’t book a new ticket if you missed your connection. Consult with the staff first because if they have some available sits on their next train, they might give you a seat on the next train. Just don’t expect that this will happen every time.

Alternatively, if you have a through ticket (one ticket for both train journeys), you don’t have to worry if you miss your connection due to a delay. Even if you can’t board the next train, you’ll at least get a partial refund.

Train booking websites

RailEurope is the official foreign distributor of train tickets in Europe. Their website is very easy to use and you can find almost all train rides on their website but booking through them is more expensive than some other websites and certainly more expensive than booking through the national railway operators of every country.

Omio is one great train booking search engine that allows users to book tickets from different countries’ railway operators. They always charge a small commission on every booking but their platform makes the booking process a lot easier.

Trainline is an online booking platform that allows users to book train journeys in Europe in a similar way as Omio. The only difference is Trainline works only in some countries. 

Klook is another great alternative that you can use for booking train tickets throughout western Europe. They even have notifications on their website warning users about potential delays or cancellations in certain regions.

HappyRail is also an interesting option, especially for frequent travelers. They provide the same services as the other website mentioned in this section of the article but they also have a reward program. This program works similarly to the reward programs of airlines ; the more tickets you book with them, the more points you get. In the end, you can exchange these points for free rides or get a discount.

Helpful resources for traveling Europe on a budget

If you’re looking for cheap flights to Europe, Qatar Airways has some special deals that can save you a lot. Yes, this is an affiliate link, but even I use it when booking my flights because it really saves a lot.

As I mentioned above, the best travel insurance company for your trip to Europe is, without a doubt, SafetyWing .

And last but not least, if you want to save on all rentals in Europe, use this discount code to get up to 15% off on your booking.

Did you ever consider train travel in Europe? Would you do it if you have the chance? Did this guide give you some useful tips? Let us know in the comments!

Like it? Pin it.

train travel europe

Thursday 7th of November 2019

I love train travel in Europe. I wish it was more of an option in the USA. I agree with your reasons on why people should travel by train. It is so easy to arrive at a train station only a few minutes before your train leaves, unlike an airport when you have to arrive hours beforehand. Also you can easily get accommodation by a train station and save on taxi fares or the hassle of taking public transportation with luggage. I agree that train travel can seem confusing at first, but your post is really helpful in answering the typical questions regarding booking train travel.

Passport Symphony

Friday 8th of November 2019

Thanks a lot Elizabeth. I am glad that you found it useful.

I always consider a train journey to be better than flights. If there is time in hand, there's nothing like a train journey. I always feel that there is a subtle romanticism about train journeys and that's the reason I love them so much. Thanks for sharing such a detailed guide of train journey in Europe. You seem to have covered every point.

Thanks, Amrita. You sure are right about train travels.

I love travelling by train when possible, it's a much more relaxing way to travel. I remember my first long-distance train trip in Europe. I had no idea the trains sometimes split at certain stations. I had a mad dash up to the front of the train to make sure I continued going where I wanted to go.

HAHA. Happens to most of us who have never train traveled in europe

Laura Axtman

Your post has great information and details for the best use of the trains and your time while traveling in Europe. Being from Montana, where public transportation is nearly non-existent, this seems to help make sense of how I could accomplish the idea of traveling through Europe using the train system.

Thanks a lot Laura.

What a great post full with informations and tips for people who are interested of traveling in Europe by train! My ever first solo trip was Interrailing for a month and that was in 2001! I remember, back then it was more flexible because there were more options (zones). It was an incredible month! We are planning to travel in Europe by train once with our daughter so your post will definitely help us to easier plan our trip!

Thanks a lot, DaDa. I hope your family has a great time in Europe.

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Great experience! Well organized, the group activities were super fun, and I had the opportunity to meet amazing people from all over the world.
Just got home from an amazing 4 week group trip with Euroventure! As someone who hadn’t really travelled before, it was really reassuring to have all the accommodation and travel sorted out for us. It was also really great to be accompanied by a tour leader (shout out to the legends Cristina and Kev) who made our experiences all the more enjoyable. Getting from place to place was always super chilled as our tour leader knew what to do and where to go. All the hostels were clean and comfy and some even provided us with free brekkie! The included activities were a real highlight and helped us to get the most out of our trip, but it was also good to have plenty of free time to do our own thing. I would really recommend travelling with Euroventure to anybody who is considering it, you will have the time of your life!

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Travelling Europe by Train: What you Need to Know

Europe train travel: the overview.

If you haven’t read our Ultimate Guide to Travelling Europe , here’s the short version…

Travelling Europe by train is easy, comfortable, scenic and efficient. Compared to flights your journeys will be easier and more comfortable – plus there’s far less risk of being caught with extra charges for luggage or checking in! Most parts of Europe have excellent high-speed networks, and even on slower routes you’ll still get amazing views and more space to stretch your legs. Overland travel gives you a great chance to see the landscape change in front of your eyes – from mountains to coastal vistas and rolling countryside. Bring a picnic, or head to the buffet carriage to enjoy lunch with a view. If you fancy a touch of luxury, you can upgrade to first class to make the experience extra special.

Once you arrive, you’ll generally find yourself right in the heart of the city, making it easy to get to your accommodation quickly. No messing about with baggage reclaim or taxis required!

There are loads of different way to sort out your travels in Europe, and if you don’t want to deal with organising all  the tickets, Eurail/Interrail passes, seat reservations, supplements and more, then let us do the work for you.

Interrail vs. Eurail

What is interrail/eurail.

Interrail and Eurail passes are two types of European rail pass, used for travelling Europe by train.

Both types of pass are very similar in usage – your nationality or residence decides which sort of pass you need.

Each pass allows you to travel within and between European countries by train. The passes are valid for a set number of travel days within a usage period.

Should I buy an Interrail or a Eurail pass?

You are eligible for an Interrail pass if you’re:

1. A European citizen (or if you have dual citizenship) and you hold a European passport.

2 . A non-European citizen who has lived in a European country for at least 6 months .

You need a Eurail pass if neither of these rules applies to you .

train travel in western europe

What kind of Interrail/Eurail passes are there?

Both Interrail and Eurail passes come in different types, and are available for people of all ages  (so not just students!).

There is a reduction in price for under 28s and for over 60s – so make sure you let us know the correct age group, or your pass won’t be valid. Don’t think you can pay less by “looking young” – unfortunately, your passport number and date of birth will be printed on the ticket – so you probably won’t get away with it!

One country vs. global passes:

Interrail and Eurail passes come in a variety of different prices, and you can buy either a “Single Country” or a “Global” pass. For the global pass, you’ll also need to choose how long you want to use the pass for:

  • You can buy a Single Country pass which is always valid for 1 month, but only within one country (or a selection of countries in the case of the Benelux pass).
  • Or, you can buy a “Global” pass which is valid across the whole of Europe (or, at least most of it). You can choose how long you want to use them for: from 5 days up to 60 days! Each option has a different price.

As well as choosing how long you want the pass to be valid for, there is an option to select how many “travel days” you want. Don’t worry, we take all of this into account for every package, so you don’t have to work it out yourself!

What is an Interrail travel day?

An Interrail “Travel day” is a day when you will be using your pass to travel by train from one of your destinations to the next. There is no limit on the number of trains you can get within the 24 hour period from midnight.

Within the usage period (of up to 2 months) you will be asked how many “travel days” you want to have.

For interrail the options (from cheapest to most expensive) are:

  • 5 travel days within a period of 1 month
  • 7 travel days within a period of 1 month
  • 10 travel days within a period of 2 months
  • 15 travel days within a period of 2 months
  • Travel every day within a period of 22 days
  • Travel every day within a period of 1 or 2 months

For Eurail the number of days are slightly different, but the principle is the same. Already got your Interrail or Eurail pass and not sure how to use it? Check out our step by step guide on how to use your Interrail/Eurail pass .

train travel in western europe

How do I know what kind of Interrail/Eurail pass I need?

For most people, the best way to work out what kind of pass you need is to first work out your route and then plan how long you’ll be travelling Europe by train. Next, work out how many travel days you will be taking. Then you need to work out which journeys will require additional seat reservations, and work out how much it will cost to buy those on top.

Unfortunately, the addition of Interrail reservations can make choosing your pass quite confusing. Sometimes the high cost of certain interrail reservations means that it makes more sense to choose a cheaper pass and buy a few extra tickets at full price, but then you’re into all sorts of comparisons and calculations…

So where do you start!?! Luckily when you book with us , we work out exactly which tickets, passes and reservations you’ll need and which combination works out the cheapest.

Let’s talk more about these pesky reservations…

Seat Reservations

What is an interrail/eurail seat reservation.

Interrail or Eurail seat reservations are extra bookings required on certain trains when travelling Europe using an Interrail or Eurail pass. They are not tickets, but are used together with your rail pass to allow you onto certain services.

As well as being compulsory to board certain services, they also guarantee you a seat on the train that you’ve selected. That can be a bonus in peak season when trains get really busy!

Once you’ve purchased a reservation, you’ll need to stick to the train time you’ve selected, as the reservation is only valid for that departure.

Do I have to buy an Interrail reservation?

If you’re using a rail pass and the route you’re taking has a “reservation required” symbol on it, unfortunately, you must buy one. If you do not present a reservation with your pass when your ticket is checked, you’ll be asked to either leave the train at the next stop or pay a fine of up to €200. Nobody wants that, so make sure you do your research before you go!

train travel in western europe

How do I know when I need one?

Good question, and unfortunately that can be tricky. The rules change regularly and the information is not always easy to find. As a general rule, you will need one on any high-speed train in Western Europe, and on any sleeper train.

On local and regional trains it’s usually not necessary to have a reservation. For our full guide on this, head to our Interrail reservations guide . When you book with us, we’ll buy you all the passes, tickets and reservations you need, tell you which ones to use and when, and let you know where you can travel without any. Easy!

If you want to check requirements, the best app for train travel in Europe is DB Navigator. This gives you pretty up to date information about all European services as far as possible.

How much does an Interrail/Eurail Reservation cost?

The cost varies depending on each country’s rail services but generally falls between 5 euros and 30 euros.

If you’re looking to save money and you aren’t short of time, it might be worth seeking out slower journeys so that you can avoid paying for reservations on certain routes – plus, you might get an awesome view!

When we book trips for our customers, we work out the most cost and time efficient way to do each journey. Using our comparison software, we find the best possible combination of full fare tickets, rail passes and reservations. This means we can work out the best possible cost. That means we reduce the cost for you guys, while booking the journeys that make the most sense for your trip. Create your dream route here with our interactive map planner .

train travel in western europe

Is First Class worth it?

First class versus second class train travel in europe:.

Usually, trains in Europe have two class options – 1st and 2nd. On high-speed trains in Spain and Italy you may also find more options to suit various budgets and comfort levels. First class train travel in Europe usually costs significantly more than second class – first class tickets could be 3 or 4 times the price when bought on the day. You can also choose a first-class rail pass and first class reservations if you go for an Interrail or Eurail pass. These cost around twice the price of their second class siblings, but you also pay more for seat reservations.

The differences between first and second class trains are most noticeable in Western Europe – France, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, Spain and Italy all have pretty luxurious first class options. For train travel through Eastern Europe, there’s less of a difference as services are slower and trains older as a general rule. Here it might well not make a lot of difference whether you upgrade or not.

train travel in western europe

If you’re not sure whether this is something you might want to splurge on, check out the major differences in service level below:

  • Second class trains provide basic but comfortable facilities, with drinks and snacks available to purchase. Some high-speed trains will offer free entertainment or wifi.
  • You can always reserve a seat, whether you’re in first or second class.
  • First class trains will provide more spacious seats with more leg room than second class.
  • First class carriages will generally be quieter with fewer passengers.
  • On major high-speed routes, first class may well offer additional perks, such as free drinks/snacks, free WIFI and complimentary newspapers.
  • On regional routes, there are unlikely to be any additional benefits beyond more space. For these trains, it may not be worth paying the extra.

Overnight train travel

Overnight transport can be a great way to maximise your time when travelling Europe by train. All night trains will require an extra supplement to be paid, on top of your Interrail or Eurail pass.

As we’ve mentioned in our video guide, here are a range of different options for overnight travel. You can choose based on your preferred comfort level and budget between the following:

  • Seat – the cheapest option, you’ll have a seat in a normal carriage, which reclines back a little bit.
  • Couchette – you’ll share a cabin with other travellers. Couchettes are normally for 6 people and offer a small bed with sheet and blanket for you to use. A more comfortable option than a seat, but cheaper than a sleeper.
  • Sleeper – depending on your group number, you’ll share your cabin with other travellers. Sleeper compartments are for up to 3 people, with a comfy bed, duvet, sink and space for hanging clothes. Often refreshments and breakfast are included.
  • Private sleeper – the same as a sleeper, but you book out the whole cabin for yourself and/or your group. This is the most expensive option, offering the highest level of comfort. 

train travel in western europe

How much does a night train supplement cost?

The costs vary a huge amount; a seat or couchette could start from as little as 10-30 euros. A private sleeper could set you back over 200 euros!

Some overnight trains – such as the night train from Venice to Paris – don’t offer Interrail reservations. Instead they just offer you a discount of around 25% off full price tickets with your pass. These might be best avoided if you’re looking to save money.

Advance Tickets

After all this talk of Interrail and Eurail passes, it’s easy to forget that these passes aren’t the only way to travel Europe by rail! In many cases rail passes provide great value, but not always. If your journey is short or will involve a lot of costly reservations, it might actually be cheaper to buy your tickets individually.

Advance tickets can be even cheaper than a pass – particularly if you check different booking sites for deals. The only down-side is that booking in advance means losing some flexibility. For the cheapest fares, you generally have to stick to the chosen service. If you miss it, you will be asked to buy a new ticket!

We’d advise booking as early as you can manage – at least 3 months is best in most cases . This will give you the greatest choice of times at the best prices. Different providers have different bookings horizons, so you’ll need to keep your eye on the ball to keep track of availability. You can use the handy DB Navigator app to reliably check which times are available across most providers.

It’s also worth noting that a large percentage of European train tickets are not available as E-tickets. Remember that you’ll need to factor in P&P processing time and costs – or use a local agent in your home country.

We will consider all these factors for you when you book with us, so you can rest assured that as the experts we will take all of this into account!

train travel in western europe


Preparing to travel Europe by train is super exciting, but it can also be stressful. Unless you’ve got a lot of time to spend researching and comparing prices, getting the cheapest possible deal can be tricky! You’ll need to do your research. That means visiting different booking sites to check prices and book individual tickets.

If you’re smart, a combination of all the above ticket types can be the way to get maximum value from your trip. Remember to ensure you follow all the rules of travel too – to avoid any unnecessary costs. Obviously we think the best way to book train travel in Europe without the hassle is to do it through Euroventure… we might be a little biased, but we’re happy to help with any level of service – from buying your train tickets through us to embarking on one of our independent Europe trips or group tours ! You can always contact us for more information on what we do.

Make sure you think about the type of experience you want too. For some people, a rail pass may still be the best option, even if it’s not the cheapest. That’ll certainly be the case if you want a bit of flexibility in your Europe trip. Making last minute changes to your advance tickets will cost you a fortune, and the trip is supposed to be fun at the end of the day!

Euroventure are a Deutschebahn ticketing agency, as well as an ABTA accredited tour operator. If you’re already busy planning, we sell individual European rail tickets, Interrail & Eurail passes and reservations. Or, if you’d prefer a zero stress option, we offer self-guided European rail trips including transport & accommodation, as well as small group tours .

train travel in western europe

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A Beginner’s Guide To Interrailing Europe – Backpack Europe by Rail

By: Author Amar Hussain

Posted on Last updated: February 8, 2022

Backpacking Europe is a dream for many and one of the most spontaneous, affordable and unique ways in which to see the continent is to use its extensive train network. Thankfully there are country and global passes that exist which allow you unlimited travel within and between countries. For Europeans this is know as an InterRail Pass and for others Eurail .

We’ll dive in to information about the passes, things to watch out for and interrailing tips to help your trip go smoothly. Here’s also a great resource for Interrailing itineraries and inspiration .

Quick Links

Can I Buy an Interrail Pass?

The global interrail pass, single-country interrail passes, how does an interrail pass work, european sleeper trains & couchettes on overnight trains, how to make an interrail reservation or pay supplements, how to buy an interrail pass, interrailing tips, why not go interrailing.

You can buy an InterRail pass as a child, youth, adult, or senior who has lived in Europe for over six months. It is, however, only available for European citizens. If you live in the USA, Canada, Australia, or India, this pass cannot be purchased although you can obtain the similar Eurail pass . Citizens of the following countries can go interrailing as they qualify to obtain a ticket:

  • United Kingdom,
  • Republic of Ireland
  • Switzerland
  • Netherlands
  • Czech Republic

If you’ve lived in Russia, Ukraine, Iceland, Malta, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, or the Baltic States for at least six months, you are also eligible to buy the InterRail pass.

You can buy a pass 11 months before your travel date. Youth passes are open to those under 26. Buyers must still be under that age the first day the pass is valid. The rail pass is ideal for anyone looking for the best destinations for backpacking Europe. Popular festivals such as running with the bulls in Spain and Germany’s Oktoberfest are often easily arrived at by rail too.

If you’re planning to see all of Europe, the Global InterRail pass is the answer. It is essentially the ultimate European rail pass. With a one-month ticket you can travel anywhere within Europe for just €12 or €17 per day. Continuous travel plans start on the date you choose the pass to start. You then have continuous unlimited travel during a 15- or 22-day period or for an entire month.

Flexi passes last for 22 or 10 days from the starting date. During that time, there are five or ten days of unlimited travel. Boxes are provided on the pass where you indicate unlimited travel days. A good perk is that with overnight trips, you only use up a single day of travel. Remember that, although the pass might be affordable, always budget for travel to mainland Europe and train surcharges in places like Spain, France, or Italy.

More about Overnight Travel

If an overnight train leaves directly for its destination after 19:00 hours, then the general midnight to midnight format of the Flexi pass does not apply. This is good because you don’t use up extra travel days. Just check the box for the following day on the pass rather than the previous date you started on.

Travelling globally gives you various sleeping options. The most basic are couchettes, which are small bunks and are the most economical. Sleepers include full beds and washbasins. For either one, a supplement fee must be paid. The price is different for couchettes and sleepers, and in Eastern or Western Europe.

Also, reservation rules and extra fees vary depending on the country. Check with the latest local regulations regarding your travel destination so there are no surprises.

As was already stated, prices vary per country, and they also change frequently. A pass covering travel in one country is available in 1 st or 2 nd class adult, 1 st or 2 nd class child, and 2 nd class youth. It lets you visit any destination of the particular country that’s accessible by train. Even purchase two one-country passes if you plan to visit them both. Single-country or global pass passes, however, are not valid for the country you live in. Except for the Czech Republic, UK, Romania, and Poland, you can get a train fare discount to and from your home country’s border or airport.

First of all, InterRail is different from other forms of rail travel. The pass gives you unlimited free travel with any national train operator that covers the program. There’s actually nothing special about these trains; they don’t look different or have super-power engines. Just regular ‘ol trains. When you get the pass, it comes with a leaflet that explains what’s covered and any important details per country. What’s not covered by InterRail is:

  • Travel in one’s home country. You won’t get free travel anywhere in the UK if you live in London, for example. If you go by rail from home to a ferry or destination you can start interrailing, a separate train ticket is required. From 2016 you now get two free journey’s wihin your country of residence which can get you to the boarder and back.
  • Eurostar is not covered, nor do you get free travel here with your pass. You can, however, coordinate your travel times and buy a Eurostar ticket which is not expensive. An exclusive fare for InterRail passholders is available but much pricier. Passholder fares are risky as quota rules may leave you stranded at the worst time. You’re better off booking a regular ticket two to three months in advance.
  • Ferry travel: Another affordable option is the ferry. Some prefer this method to Eurostar. There are train/ferry tickets in the UK, for example, with Dutch Flyer . Sometimes an InterRail discount is available but that depends on the time, carrier, and luck.
  • Free travel on metro trains or underground rail in cities is not covered.
  • Travel with private train operators such as Italy’s Circumvesuviana railway.

Some private operators do work with the plan. For example, a pass gives you free ferry travel on Stockholm to Turku Silja Line ferries, while you get a 50% discount on Corsican Railways in France. Just who will take your pass varies greatly from country to country.

Some ferries between Italy and Greece are also covered. You may still have to pay port taxes and supplement charges.

Finding Train Times

German Railways provides an online timetable that displays train departure and arrival times throughout Europe. You can use your pass with just about any of these trains listed. Trains that must be reserved are shown, while supplements and added fares may apply to some of the rides listed.

Recording Your Travel

Regardless of how many trains you ride while the pass is valid, it’s necessary to write in the date, time, and start and end points on the pass. Recording your travel is simple. Just enter the appropriate information in the indicated spaces. The travel report is used for market research once you submit it.

In some places, quotas are implemented to control the number of passholder places. This is a common issue in France, where travellers may find themselves stranded if a particularly small quota sells out. Busy travel times are when you’re most likely to be affected. You might be told there will be no places available for a few days, unless you pay a stiff fee for a regular ticket. To avoid a conflict, you can also buy tickets for specific routes in advance. These include Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam or Paris-Turin-Milan.

The problem applies mainly to TGVs in France. You won’t likely encounter quota issues in other countries.

Knowing the Ropes

You will get an itinerary when you order your pass. This includes a user guide covering various subjects, while a basis European rail map is included to get you started on planning. Remember that the Interrail pass may not be the only travel pass you’ll need. There are, however, affordable Eurostar tickets and ferries to get to your starting point. You’ll see some of these in your user guide. Also, country-by-country information can be found on the web.

If you travel on an overnight train, there may be a variety of configurations. Some of these trains combine regular seats with couchettes and sleepers. Others have only couchettes and sleepers. Including at least a couchette in your budget is highly recommended; why would you want to be slumped in a tight seat all night?

Supplement charges are something you will encounter with overnight rides. A couchette supplement is a relatively small addition to your budget. If you strive for more comfort, a sleeper gives you more room at a higher price. Yet it is still economical. As was stated earlier, these add-on costs are lower for train travel in eastern Europe than they are in western countries.

  • Couchettes: A couchette is basically a small padded bunk. You have a rug and pillow. Typically there are four or six of them in a train compartment.
  • Sleepers: Complete with beds and washbasins, these small carpeted bedrooms are more similar to hotel accommodations. There can be anywhere from one to four beds in a single compartment.

Also mentioned earlier was the after 19:00 rule, in which traveling on a direct overnight rain with a Flexi pass uses up only the following day. Not the evening during which you start. In addition, sleepers may convert into sitting rooms during the day. Deluxe rooms are available on select routes and have private showers and toilets.

A 4-berth compartment will accommodate four people overnight, while a 6-berth will fit six people. For a little extra cost you can book a lower berth count compartment. A single-berth room would be the most expensive. Extra space in a 3- or 4-berth room may be worth it for longer overnight trips.

You may also get a shaver outlet, luggage space, and a security lock. Many sleeping cars also have attendants who serve drinks, snacks and, in some cases, a light breakfast.

With interrailing, you can hop from one country to another, one train line to another, but how does the reservations and payment process work? It may seem confusing. There are actually a few ways to do it. You can reserve trips at the station, online, or by phone.

You can very well reserve at the train station. The train reservation systems in western Europe are linked. Reservations for a different train and station can be made even if you are at a completely different station. For example, if you are still in London, you can go to the international booking office and make a reservation on a Milan-Zurich ticket.

It’s highly recommended to make advance reservations. Trains may be full if you book at the last minute. If you plan to set out for Italy while still in transit to Paris, you may be out of luck if the trains leaving there for Italy later are totally booked. Some forward thinking is generally a better idea, despite many people backpacking in Europe preferring the spontaneity. A total lack of planning could lead to snags in your journey anyway.

Advanced reservations and payments can be made online. Usually only complete tickets are sold, meaning you can’t make a reservation-only booking via the web. Exceptions include UK residents who can reserve trains within the Rail Europe system along with their pass. You can also reserve a train within or leaving from Italy on the Italian Railways site. German Railways takes reservations as well for trains within the country, to and from Germany, and on the German City Night Line sleeper trains on select routes. For a small fee, you can reserve seats in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland on the ACP Rail website.

By phone, you can make an advanced train reservation in the UK or France with the respective office. The German Railways UK office handles them for trains in Germany, Austria, Scandinavia, and other central and eastern parts of Europe.

Hotel Reservations

There’s no system to book specific hotels with an InterRail pass. It’s better if you can book accommodations without penalties for cancellation, in case you can’t find a train. offers hotel bookings with free cancellation just for this reason.

You may also want to compare prices on some of the major hotel booking sites. A good thing about hotels is they don’t charge to secure your bags. This is helpful if you arrive early, prior to check in, or have to catch a train quickly. Also don’t leave out backpacker hostels. These offer the most economical private rooms or you can book dorm beds. Online booking is available at

Numerous options, therefore, are available if you’re taking the train around Europe. Make advanced bookings where possible and use hotel reservation websites to compare prices and book early. Don’t forget about hostels either. Simple reservation/payment options at train stations, online, or by phone can make your journey go much smoother as well.

You can buy your InterRail pass online or by phone. The Internet offers the easiest way. While there are several sites you can do this, will get you started. Once you buy the pass, you can start making advance reservations. Phone reservations can be made with International Rail, from where you can also buy the actual pass by calling them up (0844 248 248 3).

Familiarize yourself with the guidance in this article. It’s also wise to expand your knowledge further by reading up on interrailing before you go. Here are a few more tips to take with you.

Plan with Flexibility

There are many things to see in Europe. You should first outline the basic areas you want to go and then work your travels into the timeline. It’s important to factor in the time you have. Planning how long to stay in certain places and cities, and deciding what to see and do, become much easier.

As essential as it is to plan, also be flexible. You may come across places and events you didn’t know about. The fewer people you travel with, or if you’re traveling solo, the easier it is to meet new people and join up with them on your adventures.

Understand Prices and Budget Accordingly

You don’t need a big budget for backpacking Europe. Check the most current websites for pricing; not just on trains, but also accommodations and local activities. Currency converter apps are also handy as you can figure out costs right where you are. Another key tip is to use credit or debit cards rather than carry around a wallet-full of cash.

Research Festivals and Holidays

There are festivals all over Europe, especially during the warm summer months. You have two opportunities on this front. Either research the particular event to know when to book your tickets for (in advance), or avoid certain cities if you want to stay clear festival crowds.

Plan Accommodations

From luxury hotels to hostels, Europe has it all in terms of accommodations. Use online hotel booking sites to check availability and pricing. Also, since you’re bound to run into other travelers, ask about places they recommend. Booking accommodations ahead of time is wise but you can still keep your plans flexible.

Understand Cultural Norms

Cultural practices can impact your experience. In some places, the people are traditionally laid back. Stuff doesn’t get done as quickly as you’re used to. They may be more open to physical affection, or perhaps take long breaks from work during the day. Businesses in Spain and Italy, for example, may close for a few hours while the owners eat and party. Whether they reopen that day is their choice. The bottom line is to check their normal operating hours and plan your stay accordingly.

Learn Key Phrases

It can help to learn basic phrases in the native language spoken by locals. This is not a hard challenge or anything. You can even write them on paper or have a file on your phone handy. Learn how to say “thank you” for example. Even if the locals know some English, they’ll appreciate your willingness to fit in and learn about their culture.

Be Aware of Your Safety

Backpacking Europe does come with its risks, although most places are quite safe. Be on the lookout for pickpockets and thieves. Any naiveté can get you into trouble. That’s what the few bad guys are looking for. They may also try to distract their target, so be aware of any such signs.

Theft may be your biggest concern. Violent crime, while less common overall than in the U.S., can happen. Walk away from confrontations. That doesn’t mean avoiding socializing in pubs; that can be fine. Just be weary of the situation and be alert in areas where large numbers of tourists are gathered.

If you’re uncomfortable in a certain setting or in a crowd, use common sense. Studies have shown purse snatchers take advantage of women who look away. They notice this and come back from behind, so… look ‘em right in the eye as they pass.

Other tips include wearing local clothes, keeping finances/valuables in different places, and being vigilant at the ATM. Also, don’t fall for the requests of strangers to count cash. Ask for their identification; if they’re law enforcement, they’ll show a badge, but police won’t likely make such a demand anyway.

Go with the Flow

If you plan enough and be careful, backpacking in Europe is a great experience. Something could always go wrong. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself. Most little problems can be shrugged off or fixed. It’s easier if you just go with the flow, enjoy the experience, and take it all in.

Interrailing is a great way to see Europe. It’s relatively easy to get a pass and travel as much as you want. People go backpacking in Europe alone or with groups all the time. Depending on your plans, you can pick the type of pass that best suits your needs. Be sure to research the countries you can travel to and within. If you make reservations in advance and pay attention to schedules, quotas, and safety, you can relax and have the time of your life.

InterRail tickets are much more flexible and affordable than point-to-point tickets. Pricing varies by age and where you travel to. You can easily keep track of train costs online. The tools and resources available help to budget and plan accordingly. Reservations and payments can even be made online too. With an InterRail pass, there are no limits as to where you can go or what you can do in Europe. Click here to search for your InterRail pass .

Amar Hussain

Amar was born and raised in England and embarked on an 11-country round-the-world gap year after graduation and then became well and truly hooked. The first gap year inspired a second, which ended up being a 23-country down-the-world trip from Canada to Antarctica. Since then, Amar has spent the last 14 years traveling the 7 continents.

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Train tours to Western Europe

train travel in western europe

Europe, the rail travel continent

By its very nature and history, Europe is the land of rail travel . It boasts the world's most developed and well-connected rail networks. Whether you choose to travel by scheduled or luxury train, Europe offers a wide choice of itineraries linking city centers and offering sumptuous landscapes.

Railroads first appeared in Europe  and from the 1850s until the First World War, they enjoyed an incredible boom. The railway enthusiasm of the time gave rise to thousands of kilometers of track, notably in Great Britain, Germany and France. Caught up and then overtaken by automobile transport, rail travel then went through a period of disenchantment. But in the 1970s, the oil crisis and the advent of high-speed trains boosted rail travel . For some years now, train travel in Europe has been back in vogue: less polluting than air travel, it benefits from a positive image and renewed interest.

European trains, European borders

29 European countries have a national rail network, and high-speed rail lines exist in 6 European countries: Spain, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands and Great Britain. These networks are connected, and agreements exist between states. But national train reservation systems rarely allow you to book train tours across Europe that take place outside their borders. To create your own tour on a regular European train , Discovery Trains uses the various national rail offers or proposes InterRail passes (a low-cost solution that allows you to travel on almost all European trains ).

European countries and rail culture

European citizens have different attitudes to rail travel . On average, a member of the European Union travels 814 km per year by train, while a Swiss travels over 2,400 km. The European countries with the strongest train culture are: Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, France, Hungary, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Belgium and the UK.

Luxury trains Travel in Europe

Europe is also the land of luxury train travel . The most famous of these, the Venice Simplon Orient Express, inspired by the legendary Orient Express train, crosses the entire European continent, leaving London once a year for Istanbul. If you'd like to try it out for less time (and on a smaller budget), you can of course choose the romantic train itinerary par excellence: Paris-Venice VSOE. In addition to the VSOE, if you're dreaming of traveling by train in Europe aboard a "hotel on rails", you can also board the Golden Eagle Danube Express, which crosses all of Eastern Europe and allows you to spend an incredible New Year's Eve in Vienna, Austria. A little simpler, but still very comfortable and affordable, are the Spanish luxury trains. El Transcantabrico and El Expreso de la Robla are to be found on the northern routes, particularly on the route to Santiago de Compostela. In the south, you can enjoy the comfort of the El Andalus train to discover Seville and Cordoba.

Special trains and package train tours in Europe

Although they don't fall into the "luxury train travel" category, some European trains do offer an original train travel experience. In this respect, Switzerland is Europe's best-endowed country. Here, you'll find state-of-the-art panorama trains like the Gottard Panorama Express, and other trains linking very high stations (Glacier Express or Bernina Express).  Scotland is also at the forefront with the highly cinematic Jacobite Steam Train , better known to Harry Potter fans as the Hogwarts Express, which comes to embody the prototype of the historic train, with its plume of white smoke, as it crosses the Glenfinnan viaduct and its 21 arches. Of course, original or historic trains alone do not constitute rail cruises, like luxury trains. But if you combine these special trains with other tourist services, you get a truly organized train tour of Europe , with or without a guide. And this formula is proving increasingly popular.

Night train travel in Europe

Last but not least, a new form of train travel in Europe has been developing apace of late. We're talking about night train travel. The Paris-Vienna night train was recently launched: the fruit of cooperation between SNCF and ÖBB Nightjet, it covers the 1400 km between Paris and Vienna in one night. You can try it out on our special Duo train tour: Vienna and Prague. But the Paris-Vienna is only the first in a series. A second European night train from Paris is due to open in December 2023: Paris-Brussels. And further variations on sleeper train travel in Europe are planned over the next 2 years: a night train line will link Zurich-Rome via Milan, another Zurich-Barcelona and Berlin-Brussels. You won't be waking up in Europe's train stations!

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The Ultimate Western Europe Itinerary for First-Time Visitors

A trip to Europe is a great idea for first-time travelers.  This part of the world has a well-developed tourist trail with reliable transportation links, plenty of accommodation choices, and numerous activities and entertainment options to suit a variety of travelers.

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Western Europe offers just enough challenges to keep the trip fun and adventurous without being overwhelming for those traveling for the first time. All it takes is a little bit of research, some planning, and a big sense of adventure to make the most of your first trip to Europe!

Over the last eight years, we’ve visited many of Europe’s major cities, so it’s no surprise that when it comes to the ultimate itinerary for first-time visitors, we have a few recommendations.  Here’s a roundup of our favourite cities that we think are worth putting on your Europe itinerary for your first-time visit .

Europe Itinerary: Sprawling Parisian streets. Paris. France. Europe

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Whether you’re flying to Europe from North America or Oceania, London will most likely offer the   cheapest flights  in and out of the region. If this is your first trip to Europe, take advantage of these great deals and  put London top of your itinerary .   London  offers a plethora of activities to satisfy even the pickiest traveler.

the ultimate europe itinerary

Take in the Major Sights

Don’t miss the big attractions, like  Buckingham Palace ,  London Eye,   Piccadilly Circus ,  Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and St Paul’s Cathedral.  The best way to see the sights that interest you is to download a self-guided London walking tour map. This way you can go at your own pace and take as many photos as you like, without feeling pressured to match the pace of a guided tour.

To see as many of these popular attractions as possible, you might want to split your tour into two parts. Buckingham Palace can easily take half a day, especially if you decide to check out the stunning architecture of Westminster Abbey and Big Ben, which are within short walking distance of the palace. The  Tower of London , the  London Eye , and the iconic  Tower Bridge are about an hour’s walk from Buckingham Palace, so it’s worth either catching a ride to a starting point or just saving those sights for another day instead of rushing to visit all the destinations in one day.

Europe Itinerary: London, England

Experience London Culture

Culture vultures will love London’s selection of  world-class museums and art galleries,  shopaholics will enjoy checking out  London’s amazing markets , and foodies will go crazy for the  city’s multicultural restaurants and street food finds .

Visit London Museums

The famous  Madame Tussauds  wax museum is a fun spot to visit, and history buffs or maritime aficionados will enjoy  Cutty Sark , a historic sailing ship that has been preserved and converted into an interactive museum.

If art museums are more to your liking, the  National Gallery  has over 2,600 amazing works from the 13th century to present day. You’ll see artworks by Leonardo da Vinci, Monet, Van Gogh, and Rembrandt, and admission is free! While you’re in the city center, you can walk to  Trafalgar Square  and watch the street performers in  Covent Garden ’s cobblestone plaza.

The National Gallery London

Go on a Literature and Theatre Tour

For fans of classic literature, the  Charles Dickens Museum  is a fantastic hidden gem. Located in Charles Dickens’ former home on Doughty Street, this museum has over 100,000 items related to the author, including manuscripts and personal items. The home is laid out as it would have looked while the author lived there, like a time capsule!

There is no shortage of theaters in London, but Shakespeare fans should definitely visit  The Globe Theatre . A reconstruction of the original theatre that burned down in 1613, this venue offers tours and has regular showings of Shakespeare’s plays. A trip to The Globe is as close as you’re ever going to get to seeing The Bard, so don’t miss it when you visit Europe.

If you are looking to take a couple of tours around London, these are the ones we recommend:

  • Classic London 3.5-Hour Bike Tour : Take a morning bike ride through central London and visit some of the city’s iconic sights in an eco-friendly way.
  • State Rooms at Buckingham Palace : A trip to London would be incomplete without taking in the wonders of Buckingham Palace. This tour gives you a closer look at life as a Royal, and the chance to marvel at some of the amazing treasures.
  • Jack the Ripper Walking Tour : Journey back in time for a spine-chilling (and fun!) evening to discover the dark side of Jack the Ripper’s London.
  • Climb The Roof of The O2 Arena : Become an urban mountaineer and get a uniquebird’s eye view of the city with a climbing tour of the O2 Arena.

Europe itinerary: Tower Bridge, London

Planning the London Portion of Your Europe Itinerary

Time Needed : Three to five days, although you can easily spend an entire week in London and feel like you didn’t get a chance to see everything.

Where to Stay in London

West End or Bloomsbury if you want to be  near attractions  and  entertainment options . Kings Cross, Euston, and Camden are  more popular with backpackers exploring the alternative side of London. We try to stay in eco-friendly accommodation as much as possible during our Europe trip. 

Eco-Friendly Hotels in London: 

  • Wesley Hotel  is the first hotel in the UK to receive the Social Enterprise Mark for its sustainable practices. They are  located 15 minutes from King’s Cross Station, Camden Market,  and other famous attractions. The onsite restaurant relies on locally sourced ingredients and offers a variety of vegan options 
  • The Cavendish  is an award-winning eco-hotel, located a mere  10 minutes walk  from Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace. Conveniently located just a few minutes from the Piccadilly Tube Station, The Cavendish is the perfect home base for your visit to London. 
  • citizenM is situated in the heart of London and offers spectacular views of the river Thames, The Tower Bridge, and the Tower of London. The Tower Hill tube station is about a minute away, so you can easily get around London.

No Europe trip itinerary would be complete without Paris. Located  a quick 2.5-hour train ride from London ,   Paris  offers visitors some of the most iconic sights in the world, like the  Eiffel Tower,  the  Champs Élysées , the  Louvre , and the  Arc de Triomphe.

This city of high fashion, glamour, and arts is also known for amazing food, wine, shopping, and entertainment options. Of all the major cities on the continent, Paris is among the most walkable, making it a perfect destination for those who visit Europe. 

We recommend exploring Paris on foot, getting lost on its streets, and losing track of time while people watching in cafés along the way. Don’t miss the Sacré-Coeur  and a chance to check out the  Montmartre District , home of the  Moulin Rouge , street artists and performers, bohemian apartments, and tiny cobblestone streets.

the ultimate europe itinerary

Have a Garden Picnic

Paris is home to some of the most beautiful public gardens in the world, and a must-see for any trip to Europe. Located in the heart of Paris, the famous  Luxembourg Gardens  is the perfect place for a stroll and a picnic. If you plan on visiting the Louvre, the Jardin des Tuileries is just down the street from the museum. While not as popular as the Luxembourg Gardens, the lovely Jardin des Tuileries will be a welcome refreshment after the Louvre.

Luxembourg Gardens Paris

Take a Day Trip to the Loire Valley or Champagne Region

A visit to France wouldn’t be complete without a day in the country’s gorgeous countryside. To get to the Loire Valley, it’s about a 3-hour train ride from Paris, but it’s much easier to join a guided tour. This guided tour  provides transportation, a guided tour of three UNESCO-listed castles in the Loire Valley, and a wine tasting in Amboise.

With this   guided tour ,  Champagne lovers take a day trip to learn about bubbly at the source, sample several vintages, and tour historic sites in the region. You’ll take a guided walk through a vineyard, where you’ll learn about the specific grapes suitable for Champagne, tour the abbey where Dom Perignon lived in the 17th century, and visit with vintners for a demonstration of the production process. 

If you are looking to take a couple of tours around Paris, these are the ones we recommend:

  • Evening at the Moulin Rouge : Feel the bohemian spirit with a show and glass of champagne at the Moulin Rouge.
  • Secret Paris 3-Hour Bike Tour: Get off the beaten track and ride away from the usual tourist spots on this 3-hour bike tour. Your tour guide will take you to the  hidden gems of Paris to see street art, markets, and more.
  • Dinner in 58 Tour Eiffel : Make a trip to the Eiffel Tower even more special by  having dinner  in ‘58 Tour Eiffel’ before taking the lift to the top to look out over the city that never sleeps.

The Louvre. Paris. France. Europe

Planning the Paris Portion of Your Europe Itinerary

Time needed:  two to four days, or longer if you love art, high fashion, and glamour Getting here:  Fly for $45 USD, take a 2.5-hour train for $60 USD, or take an overnight bus for $30 USD.

Where to Stay In Paris

Stay in the Montmartre District, if you want to be in  close proximity to entertainment options . The 19th and 13th arrondissements offer lots of great options, too.

Eco-Friendly Hotels in Paris: 

  • Hotel Gavarni  is the first independent hotel in Paris to receive the European ecolabel for its sustainable practices. This boutique hotel is conveniently located just a short walk from the Eiffel Tower and a quick bus ride from the Champs Elysees, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre.
  • Hidden Hotel  is a contemporary hotel near the Champs Elysees. The hotel’s furniture is made largely from  organic farming materials  like stone, wood, linen, and leather. Hidden Hotel is part of Green Globe, the first global environmental certification program designed specifically for the travel and tourism industry. The hotel is within walking distance to a few places away from the tourist crowds, including the elegant  Parc Monceau , and the  Paris Fashion Museum .
  • For a  slightly cheaper option,  the   Solar Hotel is a good choice for its eco-friendly nature, clean rooms, and value for money. Perks include free bicycle rentals and organic breakfast, plus a garden onsite that is open to hotel guests. Luxembourg Gardens, The Louvre, and Eiffel Tower are all a short walk or bike ride away, making Solar Hotel a great starting point for your adventures in the capital city.

While many travelers associate   Amsterdam with great parties and smoky coffee shops, there’s a lot more to the Netherlands’ capital than that. The city is full of museums, architecture, and art.

It’s also one of the most  eco-friendly stops on your Europe trip itinerary.  It’s extremely easy to explore on foot or to enjoy on two wheels. 

In our opinion, the  Van Gogh Museum  and the  Anne Frank House  are a must, as is the Leidseplein, which is the center of Amsterdam’s entertainment scene and home to nightclubs, movie theatres, concert venues, casinos, and the ubiquitous coffee shops.

Amsterdam: the ultimate europe itinerary

Enjoy the Free Sights

If Amsterdam makes it onto your Europe trip itinerary, don’t skip the city’s amazing outdoor spaces. Located southwest of the city center and just west of Museum Quarter,  Vondelpark  is the largest urban park in Amsterdam. The park is full of paths, sculptures, and greenspaces, making it the perfect spot for a morning coffee or lunch picnic. 

Architecture buffs will enjoy Amsterdam’s  Canal Ring  area. Dating back to the 17th century, this half-moon of canals is a UNESCO World Heritage Site lined with historic buildings, restaurants, shops, and bars.

If you are looking to take a couple of tours around Amsterdam, these are the ones we recommend:

  • Amsterdam Walking Tour: The Fascinating Story of Anne Frank : This guided walking tour is a must for anyone with an interest in history. Learn about the city during WWII and see it through the eyes of Anne Frank.
  • Henri Willig Cheese Tasting Tour with Wine : Enjoy a  45-minute cheese tasting  sampling 5 different kinds of cheese while sipping on delicious red wine or specialty beer.
  • Tour of the Dutch countryside : If you are planning to spend at least 10 days in Europe, you can afford to spend a little more time in Amsterdam and  take a road trip to the windmills ! A guided day trip to the water lands is a great way to get a break from the crowded streets of the city. 

Europe itinerary: Amsterdam

Planning the Amsterdam Portion of Your Europe Itinerary

Time needed:  Two to four days Get there:  Take a  1.5-hour flight from Paris  for under $55 USD, a  3-hour train ride from Paris  for $57 USD or take an even cheaper overnight bus.

Where to Stay in Amsterdam

Stay in The Old Centre and the surrounding areas , so you can be  a short walk away  from the  main sights  and  shopping  and  entertainment  areas.

Eco-Friendly Hotels in Amsterdam:

  • WestCord City Hotel  for its central location and its impressive sustainable practices. Conveniently located within five minutes of Dam Square and Kalverstraat, this hotel is at the heart of Amsterdam. 
  • For a  slightly cheaper option  choose the   Conscious Hotel Vondelpark . This uber eco-conscious option is perhaps  among the greenest group  of hotels in Amsterdam. Guests are offered rental bikes and a daily vegetarian breakfast buffet prepared with organic produce. They have a few locations around the city including the   Conscious Hotel The Tire Station ,  and   Conscious Hotel The Westerpark .
  • Qbic Hotel WTC Amsterdam  is an  affordable quirky eco-hotel in the downtown core. This hotel is a 15-minute bus ride to Museum Quarter, where you can easily spend a day wandering around the  Van Gogh Museum , the outstanding  Rijksmuseum , and the  Vondelpark .

Europe Itinerary: Double room at Qbic Hotel in Amsterdam. Photo by Qbic Hotels.

Best known for its  historical associations, lively nightlife, street art,  and an  abundance of museums ,   Berlin is a fascinating city to visit on your first trip to Europe. This historical hotspot is famous for the   Berlin Wall , offers great nightlife,  and is one of the most eco-conscious cities in Europe.

the ultimate europe itinerary

Don’t Miss the Main Sights in Mitte

The city centre and historic district of Mitte are home to several of the most famous attractions in Berlin. You can easily spend half a day walking through the historic district, visiting the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, the Holocaust Memorial, the Berlin Wall Memorial, and more sights significant to the city’s history.

where to stay in berlin

See the Famous Street Art of Berlin

To explore the alternative side of the capital city, head to the Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain districts. Here, you’ll see the East Side Gallery and Museum, a kilometre-long stretch of the former Berlin Wall that is now covered in murals, including the famous piece of Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker kissing. For a more in-depth experience and a chance to see some hidden gems, consider a guided walking tour  of Berlin’s street art.

If you are looking to take a couple of tours around Berlin, these are the ones we recommend:

  • Tempelhof Airport: Hidden Places – Guided Tour : This 2-hour walking tour will take you down into the underground bunkers and tunnels beneath the city exploring the secret and off-the-beaten-path gems.
  • Berlin: 3-Hour Segway Tour : Ditch the bus tours for a more sustainable 2-wheel tour of the city! You’ll glide past  Berlin’s most famous monuments , learning and having fun as you go.
  • Mitte Culinary Food Tour : This 3-hour tour will prove to you that Berlin is more than just German sausage! 

Neue Kirche, Berlin. Germany

Planning the Berlin Portion of Your Europe Itinerary

Time needed:  Two to four days. Check out our 3-day Berlin itinerary here .   Get there:  From Amsterdam,  take an overnight bus  for about $28 USD, a 6.5-hour train for $45, or a two-hour flight for around $65 USD.

Where to Stay in Berlin

Stay in Mitte to be close to  major sights  and  attractions  or the  artsy areas  of Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg if you want to experience the best of Berlin’s nightlife.

Eco-Friendly Hotels in Berlin: 

  • Hotel Bleibtreu Hotels  eco-focus is on using sustainable products – so all of their cleaning products are chemical free and their restaurant uses  locally sourced healthy ingredients ! The hotel is a short walk away from public transportation hubs, making this a convenient home base for your visit to Berlin.
  • Scandic Berlin Kurfuerstendamm Hotel  is located in the  main shopping district  of Berlin, and   Scandic Berlin Potsdamer Platz Hotel is in the trendy Kreuzberg district. They have both won a number of awards for their sustainability efforts, including the prestigious Green Globe award .
  • For a slightly cheaper option check out the   Circus Hostel . This unique hotel is loved for its sustainable practices, and location close to Mitte. Dorm beds or private rooms are available. The hotel offers rental bikes, and it’s just a short walk from the Rosenthalerplatz U-Bahn Station. For a night in, Circus Hostel has an onsite microbrewery and a quirky museum dedicated to David Hasselhoff. 

Europe Itinerary: Reception at Circus Hostel. Photo by Circus Hostel.

Germany’s diversity grants it two spots on your Europe itinerary.  For a taste of true Bavarian culture , check out the picturesque town of   Munich . Visit the  English Garden,  hang out in the  Marienplatz , and see the  Old Town Square alive with street performers. You can also check out  München’s Viktualienmarkt , climb to the top of  St. Peter’s Church  for amazing views of Munich, and take part in the world-famous  Oktoberfest  in September.

If you are looking to take a couple of tours around Munich, these are the ones we recommend:

  • Day trip to Neuschwanstein Castle : If you’re traveling to Europe for the first time you may have dreams of Disney-type castles surrounded by enchanted forests, and day trips like this one are a must for your itinerary. It’s just a 2 hours train or coach ride from Munich and the journey itself will make this the ultimate Europe trip.
  • Munich Segway Tour : For a fun way to explore the city take a 2.5-hour guided Segway tour. An experienced guide will take you to visit Konigsplatz, the historic town hall square, the English Garden, Museums, and the State Chancellery.
  • Scavenger Hunt through the Old Town : A great activity for those on a Europe trip with the family and is another fun and novel way to discover the city and see its most interesting sights.

Europe itinerary: Munich, Germany

Planning The Munich Portion of Your Europe Itinerary

Time needed : Two to four days Get there:  From Berlin, take an  overnight bus  for around $30 USD, a  6-hour train for under $25 USD, or a one-hour flight for $165 USD. 

Where to Stay in Munich

Stay in the city centre to be within walking distance from  Marienplatz  and the  Viktualienmarkt food market . Or choose one of the less touristy   neighborhoods to stay in Munich . 

Eco-Friendly Hotels in Munich: 

  • Hotel Metropol  is conveniently located within a short walking distance of Old Town and Munich Central Station. Focused on sustainability, Hotel Metropol offers guests a breakfast buffet full of delicious food prepared with ingredients from Upper Bavaria and nearby organic farms.
  • The Derag Livinghotel  is  next to the Viktualienmarkt food market . They are very environmentally conscious and offer well-appointed, clean rooms that use renewable energy sources. The Reichenbachplatz Tram Stop is a 2-minute walk away, linking you to popular sights. 
  • A slightly cheaper option is the   Novotel München City . They have a long list of green credentials and offer soundproof rooms at a central location. The hotel is a 20-minute walk from the heart of Munich or a 5-minute ride by subway.

Prague  is considered to be  one of the most unique, romantic, and beautiful cities in all of Europe . Make sure you leave enough time on a Europe trip itinerary for this Bohemian gem! 

Visit Staromestske Namesti

Famous for its unique medieval architecture, the historic city center is home to famous attractions like  Prague Castle,   Charles Bridge , the  Old City Hall , and the famed  Astronomical Clock.  Founded during the 12th century, this square in historical Prague is lined with stunning baroque architecture, restaurants, and galleries. 

If you visit the city during the holiday season, be sure to check out the famous  Christmas Markets  held here every year. This is the largest of Prague’s Christmas markets, and it’s just beautiful to see at night.

If you are looking to take a couple of tours around Prague, these are the ones we recommend:

  • Communism and Nuclear Bunker Tour:   Excellent choice for  history buffs . Enjoy a tour of Prague’s communist past.
  • Prague Ghost Tour: Dark Shadows of the Old Town:   If you like stories of ghosts and ghouls, give yourself a fright with this 2-hour walking tour.
  • Half-day trip to Kutná Hora and Ossuary from Prague:  See the weird and wonderful Church of All Saints, decorated with more than 40,000 human bones.

the ultimate europe itinerary: Prague

Planning The Prague Portion of Your Europe Itinerary

Time needed:  Two to four days Get there:  From Munich, take a  five-hour train for just $25 USD or a 4.5-hour  bus for $25 USD. Depending on the time of year, you’ll pay around $120 USD for a 1.5-hour flight that will take you from Munich to Prague.

Where to Stay in Prague

Stay in the city centre or in the Lesser Town (Mala Strana), the historical centre of the city.

Eco-Friendly Hotels in Prague: 

  • Adria Hotel  for its sustainable practices and location right in Wenceslas Square. Here historic  charm meets modern amenities . The hotel is less than 1 km away from Old Town Square, so you can easily reach the Astronomical Clock and other sights on foot.
  • For a slightly cheaper option, the   Mosaic House is a nice choice. This carbon-neutral hotel is a part hostel as well.  The hotel is a 15-minute walk from the Old Town Square, and close to attractions in the modern city like the Prague Botanical Garden.
  • Aurea Legends  is a sustainable boutique hotel housed in one of Prague’s many historic buildings. The hotel is just a short walk from the most popular sights in Prague and steps away from restaurants and cafes.

Europe Itinerary: Common area at Moasic House in Prague. Photo by Mosaic House

Rome  is one of the most important  centers for art and history in the world, and it’s chock-full of bucket-list sights and attractions. Its  historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site , and the city is famous for its millennia-old churches, grand ruins, lavish monuments, elaborate statues, and graceful fountains. 

Lovers of food, art and history, beauty and love itself should put Rome on their Europe itinerary. Of all the European countries, there is no comparison to the romance of this beautiful city. If you have to be selective with your itinerary, make sure to visit Italy.

If you are looking to get the most out of Roma in your short time in the city, consider taking a couple of tours. These are the ones we recommend:

  • Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and Saint Peter’s : We’re not necessarily fans of museums but there are some that are the exception and this is certainly one of them!
  • Colosseum and Ancient Rome Walking Tour : Discover the  ancient past of this great city on a 3.5-hour walking tour and skip the queues at the most popular sites.
  • 4-Hour Food Tour by Night : You’ll sample some of the best food on your Europe trip to Rome, so it’s worth dedicating a whole evening to this great culinary experience
  • 1-Day Rome Tour : Perfect for those on a tight timeframe. This 1-day walking tour will take you straight to all the best sights and allow you to skip the queues.

Europe Itinerary: Rome, Italy

Planning The Rome Portion of Your Europe Itinerary

Time needed:  Two to four days Get there:  From Prague, take an overnight train to Rome for about $50 USD. At 15 hours, it’s a pretty long train ride so if you’d rather save time, consider a  1.5-hour flight for $55 USD or less. 

Where to Stay in Rome

Staying near the Termini train station  is one of the most popular neighborhoods to stay in while visiting Rome since it makes it easy to get in and around Rome during your time there. However, there are a couple of other   neighborhoods in Rome  to consider.

Eco-Friendly Hotels: 

  • President Hotel for its sustainable practices, central location, and amazing breakfast which features Italian classic cuisine. The hotel is a little over a kilometre away from the  Coliseum , Palatine Hill, and the ancient ruins of the Roman Forum .
  • DVE Suite Rome  is located  close to Termini train station, and the Coliseum . The hotel is steps away from the Monti district, a historic section full of medieval alleys full of boutiques and trattorias away from the crowded tourist spots. They honour a series of policies to operate their business sustainably.
  • Foro Romano is a sustainable boutique hotel just a few metres from the Roman Forum and Circus Maximus. Other sights, like the Coliseum, Trevi Fountain, and the Palazzo Venezia are about a 15-minute walk from the hotel. If location is your top priority, you really can’t go wrong with Foro Romano

Europe Itinerary: Double room at DVE Suites. Photo by DVE Suite Rome.

Barcelona  is full of culture, incredible food, markets, museums, rich history, and great nightlife. It makes for a great last stop on your whirlwind Europe itinerary. 

Soak up the sun on  Barcelona’s gorgeous beaches , enjoy street performers and cafés on La Rambla, shop at the markets,  admire  Gaudí’s modernist architecture,  and spend the nights enjoying  Barcelona’s lively nightlife .

If you are looking to take a couple of tours around   Barcelona , these are the ones we recommend:

  • The Ice Bar Experience : If the heat of the city is getting too much, then cool down with a trip to the Ice Bar.
  • Barcelona Main Sights by E-Bike : Explore Barcelona’s sights with a local guide during a 2.5-hour electric bike tour. You’ll discover the  history of the Gothic Quarter  and visit some of the most iconic landmarks.
  • Montserrat Monastery & Natural Park Hike : If you still have some energy left at the end of your ultimate Europe trip, then we recommend a  half-day hike to   Montserrat  to visit the Abbey . If you’re lucky, you’ll also get to hear the famous boys’ choir.

Europe Itinerary: Barcelona

Planning The Barcelona Portion of Your Europe Itinerary

Time needed:  Two to four days Get there:  From Rome, take an hour and a half flight for $30 USD.

Where to Stay in Barcelona

Stay in the  old city  to be in close proximity to sights and attractions or  along La Rambla .

  • Arts Hotel  for its incredible views of Barceloneta Beach, and its sustainable practices. The hotel houses a contemporary art collection and a two Michelin-starred restaurant. 
  • The Eco Boutique   Hostal Grau  is a wonderful choice for its beautiful rooms. This modern, family-run hotel is steps from the Modern Art Museum and Placa Catalunya.
  • If you are willing to share a room,   Twentytu Hostel  is an  affordable green option . In fact, they have one of the greenest properties in Barcelona and were one of the  first hotel properties  in Barcelona to apply green technology. The hostel also offers rental bikes, and guided tours for groups.
  • Mas Salagros Eco-Resort  is technically just outside the city limit, but definitely worth a mention. This  luxurious resort  has earned the label of 100% sustainable. The resort offers cooking classes and fragrance workshops, both using organic produce and aromatics grown onsite. 

Mas Salagros EcoResort

Give Yourself Time to be Flexible

Follow our recommendations above  for a three to five-week Europe itinerary . Plan your route ahead of time, but give yourself a little bit of flexibility when it comes to the number of days in each city. You never know which one of these amazing European cities will  steal your heart , making you linger for a few extra days.

Krakow, Poland

Get Off the Beaten Path

If time permits and you’re looking to extend your stay in Europe, consider going  off the beaten path  and paying a visit to non-capital cities in Europe. We have a whole host of ideas on our   Europe destination page .

While they might not get as much attention from travelers as the capital cities do,  they pack a punch  and offer some  unique experiences  that will make your Europe trip that much more exciting.

Brighton Beach on a cloudy day. England

About The Author

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Oksana & Max St John

2 thoughts on “the ultimate western europe itinerary for first-time visitors”.

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European countries are amazing to visit. One needs to be careful as its not same as other countries.

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My wife and I are excited for the vacation we’ve booked in Europe to Spain and definitely we will go to the Canary. Gran Canaria is one of our eyeing place for our 1st stop 🙂 There so many thing we want to do from a page we’ve read

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  • Start the adventure in Paris, France with dinner in the picturesque Montmartre neighborhood and a picnic under the Eiffel Tower.
  • Explore Brussels, Belgium by visiting the Grand Palace, indulging in Moules Frites for lunch, and taking a food tour and chocolate-making class.
  • Continue the journey in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, by wandering along the canals, visiting the historic windmills in Zaanse Schans, and trying Dutch delicacies like cheese and stroopwafels.

Deciding where to go in Western Europe for a first-time visit can be intimidating because there are so many fantastic cities in a concentrated area. Some travelers may focus on Southern Europe and meander through Italian cities like historic Rome or charming Venice. In contrast, others might want to see Lisbon in Portugal and then relax on the beaches of Barcelona. Some people prefer to explore places in Europe that are off the beaten track .

With ten days, it’s impossible to see it all. But travelers who want to make epic memories on a European inter-railing adventure will love this itinerary that takes them to France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany. Visit four countries in Western Europe in just 10 days in a first-timer friendly itinerary.

Travelers who have a full two weeks to explore Western Europe may want to extend this itinerary to include four days in London at the beginning (take the high-speed train from London to Paris and then continue with the route outlined below). Or, they can extend the itinerary to visit Copenhagen, Denmark, and Malmö, Sweden from Hamburg at the end.

10 Day One: Arrive In Paris

Travelers from the United States and Canada are likely to find that Paris is one of the cheapest cities to fly into when visiting Western Europe, so it’s a great place to start the adventure! Check into the hotel or Airbnb and then head to the picturesque Montmartre neighborhood for sunset and dinner.

  • Country: France
  • Highlight of the Day: Dinner in Montmartre

9 Day Two: Eiffel Tower And Seine River Cruise

On the first full day in Paris, travelers should start the day with a cup of coffee and pastries at a street-side café. Then, go to a local grocery store to purchase picnic foods for lunch. Have an unforgettable lunch under the Eiffel Tower. This is a romantic option for couples!

  • Highlight of the Day: Picnic at the Eiffel Tower

In the evening, board a cruise with dinner on the Seine River.

8 Day Three: The Louvre And City Walking Tour

On the next full day in Paris, it’s a must to visit Paris’ art museum, The Louvre . This is where the famous portrait of the Mona Lisa is located . Travelers visiting in the off-season (not during the summer months) are more likely to have a peaceful, less crowded experience in the Louvre.

  • Highlight of the Day: Seeing the Mona Lisa

After visiting the Louvre, join a free city walking tour.

7 Day Four: Travel To Brussels

It’s time to leave Paris on day four and head to neighboring Belgium. The train ride to Brussels is just 1.5 hours from Paris. Upon arrival, travelers should explore the Grand Palace , take some photos of the city’s incredible architecture, and then locate Moules Frites for dinner (maybe with a pint of beer!)

  • Country: Belgium
  • Highlight of the Day: Eating Moules Frites for Lunch

Related: 9 Great Reasons Belgium Should Be On Your Next Itinerary

6 Day Five: Food Tour And Chocolate-Making Class

With one full day to explore Brussels, make the most of the time by booking a food tour in advance. Spend the morning and midday on a tour of the city, trying Belgian cuisine like waffles and rabbit stew.

In the afternoon, book a chocolate-making class for a chance to learn about and try traditional Belgian chocolates .

  • Highlight of the Day: Trying Belgian Waffles and Chocolates

5 Day Six: Travel To Amsterdam (Exploring Jordaan)

On day six, travelers depart Brussels and take the train two hours north to the capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam . This vibrant city is picturesque, especially in the trendy neighborhood of Jordaan. This is a great area to stay for convenient exploration of the city, and there are many options for cheap accommodation .

  • Country: The Netherlands
  • Highlight of the Day: Wandering next to the canals

Related: Beyond Amsterdam: These Dutch Cities Are Worth Visiting

4 Day Seven: Day Trip To Zaanse Schans And Shopping In Negen Straatjes

Take a day trip to Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam to see the historic windmills that are so iconically Dutch. The green wooden houses and windmills are located in the town of Zaandam, just 20 minutes outside of Amsterdam.

Upon returning to the city, visit the Negen Straatjes (nine streets) neighborhood to explore the boutiques and do some shopping.

  • Highlight of the Day: Seeing Dutch Windmills

3 Day Eight: Dutch Food Tour And Cheese Tasting In Gouda

Gouda is a beautiful Dutch city approximately 1 hour from Amsterdam by train. Located in the province of South Holland, it’s popular because of the cheese market there. It’s the perfect day trip from Amsterdam and a great place to do a cheese tasting.

Upon returning to Amsterdam, do a food tour to try some Dutch delicacies like bitterballen, kroketten, dropjes, poffertjes, and stroopwafels.

  • Highlight of the Day: Trying Dutch Delicacies

Related: Hamburg, Germany: Your Essential Weekend Itinerary

2 Day Nine: Travel To Hamburg (Concert At The Elbphilharmonie)

On day nine, it’s time to journey into the final country of the trip. Arrive in Hamburg after a 5.5 to 6-hour train ride from Amsterdam. Check-in at the hotel or Hostel in Hamburg before grabbing dinner.

Then, go to the Elbphilharmonie concert hall in the evening for an unforgettable musical performance.

  • Country: Germany
  • Highlight of the Day: Beautiful evening concert performance

1 Day Ten: German Food Tour And City Walking Tour

On the final full day of the trip, take a walking tour of scenic Hamburg to appreciate the top sights and learn about its history. It’s also a great opportunity to take an afternoon food tour to learn about German cuisine.

  • Highlight of the Day: Trying German cuisine

This 10-day Western Europe itinerary is only the beginning of a thrilling European adventure, but it's enough to see the main sights and get a feel for European travel.

Love Exploring

Love Exploring

All Aboard the Most Beautiful Rail Routes in Europe

Posted: November 21, 2023 | Last updated: November 22, 2023

<p>With so many countries to explore – each offering vastly different landscapes and scenery – Europe almost seems custom-built for train travel. So it’s little wonder that the continent is covered in a huge network of brilliant railways, most of which are affordable and easy to navigate. From routes along the alpine slopes of Switzerland to Italian coastal villages and dramatic Nordic fjords, here are our favorites. (Ticket prices are correct at the time of writing, but do check individual operators for the most up-to-date information.)</p>

Terrific trains

With so many countries to explore – each offering vastly different landscapes and scenery – Europe almost seems custom-built for train travel. So it’s little wonder that the continent is covered in a huge network of brilliant railways, most of which are affordable and easy to navigate. From routes along the alpine slopes of Switzerland to Italian coastal villages and dramatic Nordic fjords, here are our favorites. (Ticket prices are correct at the time of writing, but do check individual operators for the most up-to-date information.)

<p>Translating to 'little green train', the <a href="">Trenino Verde</a> is a sublime – and surprisingly little-known – way to see the Sardinian countryside. This 130-year-old vintage railway has five different routes across the country, totaling 272 miles (438km) of track, which pass through a treasure trove of landscapes, including olive groves, quaint villages, glittering seas, craggy coastlines and steep peaks. </p>

Trenino Verde, Sardinia, Italy

Translating to 'little green train', the Trenino Verde is a sublime – and surprisingly little-known – way to see the Sardinian countryside. This 130-year-old vintage railway has five different routes across the country, totaling 272 miles (438km) of track, which pass through a treasure trove of landscapes, including olive groves, quaint villages, glittering seas, craggy coastlines and steep peaks. 

Among the gorgeous spots you can get out and explore are the medieval village of Mandas with its 4,000-year-old stone towers; Isili, which is known for its copper artisans; and the traditional hilltop town of Laconi. You could travel along every part of the railway without getting bored, but if you have to pick one, the 37-mile (59km) stretch between Tempio and Palau is said to be especially captivating. Tickets start from just $12 and journeys take between two and four hours.

West Highland Line, Scotland, UK

It’s little wonder that ScotRail's  West Highland Line is often dubbed Britain's most scenic train route, with rugged Highland landscapes, rolling hills and windswept moorlands galore. But the most picture-perfect (and famous) section of the rail line, which runs between the cities of Glasgow and Mallaig, is the part where the train crosses the Glenfinnan Viaduct. Recognize it? That’s because it’s the same bridge the Hogwarts Express crosses in the Harry Potter films.

<p>For an even more authentic Harry Potter experience, you can travel across the famous viaduct on the <a href="">Jacobite steam train</a>, which is used in the films. The seasonal service typically runs between early April and late October each year, covering the 84-mile (135km) round trip between Fort William and Mallaig in leisurely style. It’s a little more expensive than the ScotRail line, with an adult return costing $61. The ScotRail service line starts at around $19 for an off-peak day return.</p>

For an even more authentic Harry Potter experience, you can travel across the famous viaduct on the Jacobite steam train , which is used in the films. The seasonal service typically runs between early April and late October each year, covering the 84-mile (135km) round trip between Fort William and Mallaig in leisurely style. It’s a little more expensive than the ScotRail line, with an adult return costing $61. The ScotRail service line starts at around $19 for an off-peak day return.

<p>There aren’t a whole lot of options for exploring the famously bus-heavy Balkans by rail, but this legendary 10-hour journey takes in some of the best scenery Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro have to offer. That includes this eye-wateringly high bridge, which teeters 656 feet (200m) above the Mala Rijeka viaduct (until 2001 it was the highest railway bridge in the world). But it’s one of just 435 bridges along the route – necessary to cross all the mountains and gorges. </p>

Belgrade, Serbia to Bar, Montenegro

There aren’t a whole lot of options for exploring the famously bus-heavy Balkans by rail, but this legendary 10-hour journey takes in some of the best scenery Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro have to offer. That includes this eye-wateringly high bridge, which teeters 656 feet (200m) above the Mala Rijeka viaduct (until 2001 it was the highest railway bridge in the world). But it’s one of just 435 bridges along the route – necessary to cross all the mountains and gorges. 

<p>Beginning at the Serbian capital, the train rattles past wide, flat fields and distant mountains, before stopping at Užice in the country’s southwest. Next, it hurtles towards Podgorica in Montenegro, skimming along the shores of Lake Skadar before finishing up at the coastal town of Bar. There's a daytime departure and a night train too, and tickets are reported to cost just $21, although you can’t book online. </p>  <p><strong><a href="">Love this? Follow our Facebook page for more travel inspiration</a></strong></p>

Beginning at the Serbian capital, the train rattles past wide, flat fields and distant mountains, before stopping at Užice in the country’s southwest. Next, it hurtles towards Podgorica in Montenegro, skimming along the shores of Lake Skadar before finishing up at the coastal town of Bar. There's a daytime departure and a night train too, and tickets are reported to cost just $21, although you can’t book online. 

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<p>Connecting the mountain resorts of Zermatt and St Moritz, the <a href="">Glacier Express</a> is a brilliant way of seeing some of the most beautiful views in the Swiss Alps. The scenic route takes in sights including the Oberalp Pass, the highest point of the journey, and the Landwasser Viaduct (pictured) – a six-arch bridge which stands at 213 feet (65m) and plunges straight into a tunnel that leads through the mountain. </p>

The Glacier Express, Switzerland

Connecting the mountain resorts of Zermatt and St Moritz, the Glacier Express is a brilliant way of seeing some of the most beautiful views in the Swiss Alps. The scenic route takes in sights including the Oberalp Pass, the highest point of the journey, and the Landwasser Viaduct (pictured) – a six-arch bridge which stands at 213 feet (65m) and plunges straight into a tunnel that leads through the mountain. 

<p>The day-long trip covers 91 tunnels and 291 bridges, and offers the chance to take in alpine meadows, mountain lakes and chalets. You might expect such a stunning train ride to cost huge sums of money, but the journey will only set you back around $156 for a one-way, second-class ticket. Now the only decision is whether to travel in summer, when you’ll get to see the region covered in vibrant green trees and colorful wildflowers, or winter, when the alpine landscapes are blanketed in frost and snow. </p>

The day-long trip covers 91 tunnels and 291 bridges, and offers the chance to take in alpine meadows, mountain lakes and chalets. You might expect such a stunning train ride to cost huge sums of money, but the journey will only set you back around $156 for a one-way, second-class ticket. Now the only decision is whether to travel in summer, when you’ll get to see the region covered in vibrant green trees and colorful wildflowers, or winter, when the alpine landscapes are blanketed in frost and snow. 

<p>The storied mountaintop monastery of Montserrat is one of the most gorgeous parts of Catalonia – but did you know you can reach it by train? The <a href="">ToT Montserrat</a> is an ultra-scenic route which runs between Barcelona and the foothills of the peak, at which point you can choose between taking the cable car (Aeri) or the rack railway (Cremallera) up to the Montserrat Monastery. Whichever option you go for, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping vistas across the rugged valley.</p>

Barcelona to Montserrat, Spain

The storied mountaintop monastery of Montserrat is one of the most gorgeous parts of Catalonia – but did you know you can reach it by train? The ToT Montserrat is an ultra-scenic route which runs between Barcelona and the foothills of the peak, at which point you can choose between taking the cable car (Aeri) or the rack railway (Cremallera) up to the Montserrat Monastery. Whichever option you go for, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping vistas across the rugged valley.

<p>A round-trip ticket, which includes either the Aeri or Cremallera option, costs $65 and takes around an hour and a half in total. If you want to go even higher, hitch a ride on the <a href="">Saint Joan funicular</a> (pictured) which is included in the price of your ticket and takes you from the monastery right up to the top of the mountain.</p>

A round-trip ticket, which includes either the Aeri or Cremallera option, costs $65 and takes around an hour and a half in total. If you want to go even higher, hitch a ride on the Saint Joan funicular (pictured) which is included in the price of your ticket and takes you from the monastery right up to the top of the mountain.

<p>For a no-expense-spared, once-in-a-lifetime trip, look no further than this route between London and Verona. With an aim to evoke the romance and grandeur of old-school railway journeys, the stunning Art Deco <a href="">Venice Simplon-Orient-Express</a> is a chance to see rolling Italian countryside and iconic European cities in style. The new European ‘Grand Tour’ routes also include stops in Rome and Florence, and stretches to Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands too, with options to add hotel stays.</p>

Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, UK to Italy

For a no-expense-spared, once-in-a-lifetime trip, look no further than this route between London and Verona. With an aim to evoke the romance and grandeur of old-school railway journeys, the stunning Art Deco  Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is a chance to see rolling Italian countryside and iconic European cities in style. The new European ‘Grand Tour’ routes also include stops in Rome and Florence, and stretches to Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands too, with options to add hotel stays.

<p>There are six Grand Suites on the train and each one is uniquely decorated to reflect a different city (Vienna, Prague, Paris, Istanbul, Venice and Budapest). Expect plenty of period features, delicate light fixtures, polished cherrywood marquetry and marble en suite bathrooms. Michelin-starred food (including Brittany lobsters and salt marsh lamb from Mont St Michel) is served from three dining cars. As if all that wasn’t decadent enough, there’s also a 24-hour butler onboard.</p>  <p><a href=""><strong>Discover more of the world's most luxurious train journeys</strong></a></p>

There are six Grand Suites on the train and each one is uniquely decorated to reflect a different city (Vienna, Prague, Paris, Istanbul, Venice and Budapest). Expect plenty of period features, delicate light fixtures, polished cherrywood marquetry and marble en suite bathrooms. Michelin-starred food (including Brittany lobsters and salt marsh lamb from Mont St Michel) is served from three dining cars. As if all that wasn’t decadent enough, there’s also a 24-hour butler onboard.

Discover more of the world's most luxurious train journeys

<p>Traveling between Myrdal and Flåm in western Norway, the <a href="">Flåm Railway</a> is among the most historic and beautiful journeys in Europe. The route was built between 1923 and 1940 to serve villages along the Sognefjord. In fact, it’s one of the steepest rail journeys on the planet, dropping 2,844 feet (867m) during its 12-mile (20km) route, with 20 tunnels traveling through the steep mountains. Along the way, you’ll get to see everything from waterfalls to mighty lakes and mountains.</p>

Flåm Railway, Norway

Traveling between Myrdal and Flåm in western Norway, the Flåm Railway is among the most historic and beautiful journeys in Europe. The route was built between 1923 and 1940 to serve villages along the Sognefjord. In fact, it’s one of the steepest rail journeys on the planet, dropping 2,844 feet (867m) during its 12-mile (20km) route, with 20 tunnels traveling through the steep mountains. Along the way, you’ll get to see everything from waterfalls to mighty lakes and mountains.

Inside, its vintage carriages are decked out with wooden furnishings and plush seats, plus there are large windows for gazing out at all the panoramic views. Tickets start at $65 for a round-trip, which takes just under an hour each way and includes a five-minute stop at the stunning Kjosfossen waterfall, where guests can get out and take pictures. The route also connects with Norway’s Bergen Line between Bergen and Oslo, so you can combine two ultra-pretty journeys.

Mariazell Railway, Austria

Captured here in the golden-tinged glory of early fall, Austria’s Mariazell Railway is a fine way to see the picturesque Pielach Valley. The journey begins at St Pölten, the capital of the Lower Austria region, snaking its way southwards through 21 tunnels and across 19 viaducts before arriving at Mariazell. The so-called ‘Stairway to Heaven’ is Austria’s longest narrow-gauge railway, covering a distance of around 56 miles (91km) in just over two hours.

<p>There are three options for those wishing to experience the storied route. Either take the modern Himelstreppe (pictured), which departs daily and starts from just $19. Or book a ticket on the first-class panorama carriage, which runs April to October and over Christmas, boasting 360-degree views and a first-class catering service. Alternatively, for a historic experience check out the historic Ötscherbär adventure train, powered by a century-old electric locomotive, with themed journeys for families.</p>

There are three options for those wishing to experience the storied route. Either take the modern Himelstreppe (pictured), which departs daily and starts from just $19. Or book a ticket on the first-class panorama carriage, which runs April to October and over Christmas, boasting 360-degree views and a first-class catering service. Alternatively, for a historic experience check out the historic Ötscherbär adventure train, powered by a century-old electric locomotive, with themed journeys for families.

<p>Few places on Earth have as much dramatic scenery as Norway and the <a href="">Rauma Line</a> is a great way to experience it. The one hour and 40-minute journey begins in the village of  Dombås, taking in the historic towns and mountain farms of the Gudbrandsdalen valley before entering the steep and rugged Romsdalen valley. It then passes over the famous Kylling Bridge and cruises past Trollveggen mountain before arriving at its final destination, Åndalsnes.</p>

Rauma Line, Norway

Few places on Earth have as much dramatic scenery as Norway and the Rauma Line is a great way to experience it. The one hour and 40-minute journey begins in the village of  Dombås, taking in the historic towns and mountain farms of the Gudbrandsdalen valley before entering the steep and rugged Romsdalen valley. It then passes over the famous Kylling Bridge and cruises past Trollveggen mountain before arriving at its final destination, Åndalsnes.

<p>If you’re ending your journey in Åndalsnes, there’s no shortage of things to do in the fjord town. Hop on the Romsdalen Gondola for more epic views across the valley, enjoy a bite to eat at the panoramic Eggen Restaurant or lace up your hiking boots and explore one of the region’s many walking trails. Tickets can be purchased from <a href="">SJ NORD</a> and start from around $20 each way.</p>

If you’re ending your journey in Åndalsnes, there’s no shortage of things to do in the fjord town. Hop on the Romsdalen Gondola for more epic views across the valley, enjoy a bite to eat at the panoramic Eggen Restaurant or lace up your hiking boots and explore one of the region’s many walking trails. Tickets can be purchased from SJ NORD and start from around $20 each way.

<p> Dating back more than 150 years, North Wales’ <a href="">Mountain Spirit</a> service was rejuvenated in 1982, following a three decade-long restoration. The nostalgic steam train journey begins in the charming village of Blaenau Ffestiniog, crossing over the Cob embankment and climbing up the valley past woodlands and fields, before stopping at pretty Tan-y-Bwlch. The scenic 13.5-mile (21.7km)  journey ends in Porthmadog, a port town and narrow-gauge railway hub.</p>

Mountain Spirit, Wales, UK

 Dating back more than 150 years, North Wales’  Mountain Spirit  service was rejuvenated in 1982, following a three decade-long restoration. The nostalgic steam train journey begins in the charming village of Blaenau Ffestiniog, crossing over the Cob embankment and climbing up the valley past woodlands and fields, before stopping at pretty Tan-y-Bwlch. The scenic 13.5-mile (21.7km)  journey ends in Porthmadog, a port town and narrow-gauge railway hub.

<p>Those who board the historic train will be rewarded with its gorgeous vintage interiors, complete with comfortable seats and huge windows for admiring the scenery. Tickets start at $93 for a return ticket for two adults, with a there-and-back journey taking around three hours. </p>  <p><a href=""><strong>Marvel at incredible images that capture the history of train travel</strong></a></p>

Those who board the historic train will be rewarded with its gorgeous vintage interiors, complete with comfortable seats and huge windows for admiring the scenery. Tickets start at $93 for a return ticket for two adults, with a there-and-back journey taking around three hours. 

Marvel at incredible images that capture the history of train travel

<p>You’d be hard-pressed to find a much more adorable train journey than this. Located in France’s captivating Basque Country, the <a href="">Rhune Railway</a> (or Le Petit Train de la Rhune) is a fabulous cog railway which takes passengers on a 35-minute ascent up to the 2,969-foot (905m) summit of its namesake mountain. The picture-perfect chestnut-wood carriages have been navigating this steep section of track since 1924.</p>

La Rhune, France

You’d be hard-pressed to find a much more adorable train journey than this. Located in France’s captivating Basque Country, the Rhune Railway (or Le Petit Train de la Rhune) is a fabulous cog railway which takes passengers on a 35-minute ascent up to the 2,969-foot (905m) summit of its namesake mountain. The picture-perfect chestnut-wood carriages have been navigating this steep section of track since 1924.

When you’re done fawning over its gorgeous interiors, peel your eyes back outside to enjoy some seriously beautiful landscapes as the train winds up the peak. Along the way, you’ll see a huge variety of flora and fauna, including pottok (Basque ponies), raptors and many types of wildflower. Return tickets cost $20 and the railway is open from mid-April to early September each year.

Odontotos Rack Railway, Greece

Operating on the world’s narrowest gauge track – just a hair-raising two-and-a-half feet (0.75m) wide – southern Greece’s Odontotos Rack Railway is a stunning and historic way to experience the Peloponnese Gorge. Starting in the coastal town of Diakopto, it runs alongside the Vouraikos River, through rock-hewn tunnels and next to adrenalin-pumping sheer drops before arriving at the mountain town of Kalavrita. 

<p>The leisurely one-hour journey covers a total distance of 14 miles (22.5km) but there are an impressive 49 bridges in total, plus six tunnels which have been carved directly into the rock. As well as being jaw-droppingly scenic and historic (the train has been in operation for over 120 years), Odontos Rack Railway is also a total bargain, costing just over $9.50 for a single or $19 for a return trip. </p>  <p><a href=""><strong>Here are more stunning train journeys that don't cost a fortune</strong></a></p>

The leisurely one-hour journey covers a total distance of 14 miles (22.5km) but there are an impressive 49 bridges in total, plus six tunnels which have been carved directly into the rock. As well as being jaw-droppingly scenic and historic (the train has been in operation for over 120 years), Odontos Rack Railway is also a total bargain, costing just over $9.50 for a single or $19 for a return trip. 

Here are more stunning train journeys that don't cost a fortune

<p>Slicing through Sweden from top to bottom, the <a href="">Inlandsbanan</a> should be top of all rail buffs’ wish lists. This epic 807-mile (1,200km) track stretches between Kristinehamn in the south and Gällivare in the north, passing from relatively flat green fields through alpine forests and the perennially snowy mountains of Lapland. Naturally, such a monumental journey takes a while to complete, with the typical itinerary taking nine days to cover the full route.</p>

Inlandsbanan, Sweden

Slicing through Sweden from top to bottom, the Inlandsbanan should be top of all rail buffs’ wish lists. This epic 807-mile (1,200km) track stretches between Kristinehamn in the south and Gällivare in the north, passing from relatively flat green fields through alpine forests and the perennially snowy mountains of Lapland. Naturally, such a monumental journey takes a while to complete, with the typical itinerary taking nine days to cover the full route.

Stops include the lakeside city of Mora, the small Lapland town of Gällivare and the city of Östersund, where a UNESCO-recognized food scene and pretty cobbled streets await you. On the train, keep your eyes peeled for reindeer and elks – there are usually plenty to spot along this route. Packages are available from both Kristinehamn and Mora, with prices and availability on consultation.

North York Moors Railway, England, UK

Whisking you back to the golden era of train travel, the 24-mile (39km), 1h 45min journey between Whitby and Pickering in the north of England promises to be a trip to remember. This steam-powered railway has been around since the 1830s and received a new lease of life in 1967, when a group of local volunteers took on the task of restoring it. 

<p>For the ultimate luxury experience, hop aboard the Pullman dining carriage, where you can enjoy either a four-course dinner service or three-course lunch as the train ambles through the countryside. Unmissable attractions along the way include the 1930s-era Pickering station, Goathland, which served as Hogsmeade Station in <em>Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone</em>, as well as the historic port of Whitby where the journey ends. The train runs from April to October every year and tickets on the dining car start at $84. </p>

For the ultimate luxury experience, hop aboard the Pullman dining carriage, where you can enjoy either a four-course dinner service or three-course lunch as the train ambles through the countryside. Unmissable attractions along the way include the 1930s-era Pickering station, Goathland, which served as Hogsmeade Station in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone , as well as the historic port of Whitby where the journey ends. The train runs from April to October every year and tickets on the dining car start at $84. 

<p>Named after the 3,747-foot (1,142m) mountain which it traverses, central Germany’s <a href="">Brocken Railway</a> is all sweeping panoramas and serpentine bends. This 11-mile (19km) branch of track, connecting the mountain to the Harz railway, is still operated by historic steam locomotives, since this part of Germany was behind the Iron Curtain for decades and its trains were never modernized. But that’s good news for rail buffs, who come here to experience the decades-old carriages in all their glory.</p>

The Brocken, Germany

Named after the 3,747-foot (1,142m) mountain which it traverses, central Germany’s Brocken Railway is all sweeping panoramas and serpentine bends. This 11-mile (19km) branch of track, connecting the mountain to the Harz railway, is still operated by historic steam locomotives, since this part of Germany was behind the Iron Curtain for decades and its trains were never modernized. But that’s good news for rail buffs, who come here to experience the decades-old carriages in all their glory.

<p>The 50-minute ascent packs in plenty of mesmerizing views, across towering forests, vibrant green meadows and distant peaks, traveling at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour (40km/h). Inside, carriages have back-to-back seats with large windows for gazing out of – or you can head to one of the open-air viewing platforms for optimum vistas. The journey between Drei Annen Hohne and Brocken starts at $50 for an adult return. </p>  <p><a href=""><strong>Now take a look at beautiful images of the world's train stations</strong></a></p>

The 50-minute ascent packs in plenty of mesmerizing views, across towering forests, vibrant green meadows and distant peaks, traveling at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour (40km/h). Inside, carriages have back-to-back seats with large windows for gazing out of – or you can head to one of the open-air viewing platforms for optimum vistas. The journey between Drei Annen Hohne and Brocken starts at $50 for an adult return. 

Now take a look at beautiful images of the world's train stations

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Can a European sleeper train replace a pricey hotel? We tested it out.

After three nights on the rails, the verdict was clear.

train travel in western europe

On an overnight train journey in Europe , I slept — or at least tried to — through sections of Germany, Switzerland and Hungary tucked under a dark sky. Through the snores of travelers inches from my face and the antics of schoolkids ignoring their chaperones. Through the morning rush for the bathroom and the exodus of passengers.

When I finally woke up, I was in Berlin, Zurich, Budapest . It was as if I had checked into a hotel and discovered a secret transporter behind the shower curtain.

In Europe , sleeper trains are experiencing a boom. Railway companies are introducing inaugural routes, expanded service and modernized cabins. Train enthusiasts are thrilled by the overnight train movement, of course, but so are environmentalists, slow travel advocates, budget warriors and politicians tackling climate change.

“People who take sleeper trains are fed up with the airport and airline experience,” said Mark Smith, who founded the Man in Seat 61 , an online train guide, “and they want to cut their carbon emissions.”

Overnight trains resemble a mobile hostel. Similar to a stationary room, the sleeping quarters provide varying levels of privacy and cushiness, and fit a range of budgets. Whether you stay in a private cabin with a shower or bunk with six strangers and share a bathroom, the upshot is the same. You can sleep through the travel portion of your European vacation and be awake for what matters most: the destination.

“Overnight trains are at the frontier of travel,” Smith said. “The problem is now a lack of capacity. They are just not building them fast enough.”

The last time I overnighted on a train, I was in college. I nursed a neck crick and lack-of-sleep hangover for most of the trip. Decades later, I was ready for another sleepover on the rails. So, in early June, I boarded the first of three sleeper trains. The ultimate test was: Would I bound out of my compartment ready to explore each new city, or would I wish for a hotel bed I could crawl into?

Get your eight hours of sleep

The overnight train rewrites the rules of travel. Shorter isn’t always better, for instance. At the very least, the length of the trip should cover the recommended amount of sleep — seven or eight hours. You should also factor in extra time to get settled into your cabin and enjoy breakfast before disembarking. Other considerations: You don’t want to board too late and risk nodding off in the station, or arrive too early in the new city and have to wait around for restaurants, shops and attractions to open.

“ If the night train leaves at 7 or 8 in the evening, you can have a bit of time to open a bottle of wine and read a book by the glow of your berth light,” Smith said. “And you don’t want to arrive at 6 in the morning.”

For my journey, my latest boarding time was at 10:30 p.m. (Amsterdam), and my earliest arrival was 6:30 a.m. (Berlin). My excuse: It was my first outing.

The other critical decision is the type of accommodations, which range from totally private if you’re willing to purchase the whole cabin to shared among as many as six strangers. (Women-only rooms are available.) You will probably want a bed, which is not a big ask: The majority of compartments cater to people who sleep horizontally. However, if you’re the resilient type, you can book a cabin with seats and sleep upright.

The experience: Leg 1 to Berlin

For my train experiment, I booked three straight nights, starting in Amsterdam . I had a full day (plus early evening) in each destination: Berlin, Zurich and Budapest. I checked my luggage at the train station and, when necessary, washed up there, too. I could drop into hotels , but only to charge my phone and cool off — no catnapping allowed.

I booked the first leg on European Sleeper , a community-owned start-up that debuted in May 2023. In March, it extended its Brussels-to-Berlin service to Prague , a nearly 16-hour trip.

I had booked the top-tier accommodations, a sleeper cabin with a real bed. A few days before my departure, I received an apologetic email informing me that I had been downgraded because my cabin was broken. The company didn’t specify what exactly was busted.

An employee later told me the cars date from the 1950s to the ’90s. He said new cars can cost $5 million to $8 million each, so railways often refurbish or retrofit used ones.

“The fact that this train is still rolling is nothing short of a miracle,” he said.

In my new digs, I had three female bunk mates, the same number and gender as my original booking. But I was now in a “couchette” — train lingo for a room with seats that convert to beds. I also lost many of the other hotel-caliber comforts, such as the duvet (now a paltry blanket), the en-suite sink (now a basin in the bathroom shared by everyone in my car), the welcome glass of wine or soda (a carton of water), and the towel and toiletries (had to bring my own).

Upon entering the cabin, I placed my hand on the upper bunk and felt something soft and warm. It was my roommate, who had boarded two hours earlier in Brussels. My other cabin mate, who hailed from The Hague, had an early-morning meeting in Berlin. She wasted no time transforming her seat into a single bed, laying down the sleep sack, thin gray blanket and pillow.

Before crawling into her cocoon, she stretched an arm across the narrow space separating our beds and handed me a wad of cotton containing wax earplugs.

“I’m a snorer,” she said. “I brought you these.”

I wasn’t tired, so I went in search of a diversion, a challenge on a train whose primary activity is sleeping. I found the cabin attendant in her cubbyhole and inquired about a cafe car . She pointed behind her, at a kettle and basket of tea and coffee. She flashed me a sympathetic look and offered me a free coffee.

“Because I was downgraded?” I asked.

“No, because you are nice,” she replied.

I resumed my wanderings and settled in the bike storage area, the only open space. A procession of Canadians passed through, toting cans of beer. A member of the entourage joined me on the floor. Toby said his group of 18 were on their eighth annual surprise trip. Only the two organizers knew the itinerary. He never asked where I was going, keeping the secret to the end.

Eventually, a staff member making the rounds ordered us back to our cabins. I tiptoed into my compartment, installed my earplugs and wriggled into the sleep sack that had as much charm as a laundry bag.

At 5:45 a.m., the cabin attendant appeared at our door with coffee and an update: We were ahead of schedule and had to idle in order to ensure a punctual arrival in Berlin.

The experience: Legs 2 and 3

For my second and third overnights, I booked passage through Nightjet, which is owned by the Austrian rail company ÖBB . For the Berlin-to-Zurich trip, I reserved a sleeper car, the highest-end option, which cost about $214 per person. (On this particular train, the cushiest choice was still shared among up to three guests and didn’t have a private shower.) Still, after the spartan night on the European Sleeper, I greeted each amenity like an old friend that I’d missed terribly.

While I was digging through my goody bag — slippers, earplugs, eye mask, Tutti Frutti candies — a steward entered my compartment to take my breakfast order. He said I could choose six items off the menu. I consulted with my neighbor, a Dane who lives in Berlin and does not like to fly. She didn’t have her glasses on, so I helped her read the tiny print on the menu: calf’s liver pate, Gouda slices, muesli yogurt, salami.

“The trains have really stepped it up,” she marveled. “Breakfast used to be a dry roll and bad coffee.”

I was cooing over my bathroom vanity when the cabin attendant returned with a bottle of German sparkling wine. I asked him if anyone was occupying the other two beds. He said he would know in Leipzig, adding, “I hope they don’t come, so you can just rest.”

To pass the time, I poked around my section of the train. My cabin’s beds were stacked like shelves. I scaled the ladder to the top bunk, which was protected with a safety net. I peered down and wished I had a climbing harness. I played with the mood lighting before heading to the front of the car, where I could connect to the train’s internet and watch Railnet TV.

At midnight, I proclaimed the cabin was all mine. I celebrated by brushing my teeth in my private sink.

In the morning, I opened my eyes to discover a Bernese mountain dog strolling by my window. We were in Basel, about 90 minutes from Zurich. The attendant dropped by with my vegan breakfast — green tea, two slices of Mestemacher bread and a pot of raspberry jam — which I ate in bed as scenes of Switzerland flickered by.

After the morning rush, the shared shower was available. I stepped inside the stall and tried to close the door. It fell off its hinges, so I brought it inside with me. I had just lathered up when the water stopped flowing. I returned to my cabin to rinse off in the sink. My door was locked.

I tracked down the cabin attendant, who opened the door for me. He didn’t ask any questions.

I wanted to stay forever in the sleeper car, but alas, it was sold out on my final leg. For the Zurich-to-Budapest voyage, I chose the next best option, the couchette carriage. Four of the six beds were set up. My cabin mate, who had teased bangs and a sweet smile, helped me make up mine — fitted sheet, top sheet, brown blanket, pillow — across from hers. She didn’t speak English, but her body language said she was ready to call it a night.

Similar to the other trains, there was no communal area, but the corridor was outfitted with pull-down seats. I claimed one and waved at a mom with a baby sitting a stool away.

In Buchs, our last stop in Switzerland, we had an hour layover. Adult passengers and kids on a field trip spilled onto the platform to smoke and dance, respectively. I chatted with an employee who explained that I was in the Hungarian section of the train and he was in the Austrian half. He said I was welcome to hang out in his car, which was brighter and more modern. However, I would have to return to my cabin by 3 a.m. or I would be bound for Vienna instead of Budapest, since the trains were set to detach mid-trip.

In the morning, I woke up to a pair of feet dangling in my face. The other two roommates had arrived late in the night and quietly crawled up the ladder into bed. They lived in Liechtenstein but were visiting Budapest, the hometown of one of the women.

From up high, she shouted down recommendations for Budapest. She strongly recommended the Szechenyi Baths in Heroes’ Square, where I could soak in peace.

The takeaway

After three nights on sleeper trains, I am ready to quit hotels and planes. Though I was a little sleep- and shower-deprived, the sacrifice was worth it. (If you require a solid eight hours and a luxurious soak, you would probably disagree.)

First and foremost, I saved a bundle. The most I paid was $218 for the Berlin-to-Zurich trip, a fragment of the cost for a flight, hotel and transportation to the city center. I had a few additional expenses, such as luggage storage and the bathroom fee at the train station, but they didn’t add up to much.

Experience-wise, I appreciated the ease of boarding the train. No security checks, baggage limits or liquid restrictions. I explored my trio of cities until a half-hour before departure time, an impossible feat if I had traveled by plane.

Along the way, I picked up some nuggets of wisdom. For the next time, I would stick with the sleeper car and, if possible, travel with friends or family members who can provide a doctor’s note asserting they don’t snore. I would follow Smith’s advice and catch an earlier evening train — maybe closer to dinnertime — so I could enjoy the onboard experience more. And I would remember to take the room key before heading down the corridor for a shower.

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train travel in western europe

Ukraine-Russia war latest: Long-awaited fighter jets to take off in Ukraine 'this summer'; Russian media's NATO coverage betrays 'deep concern'

A NATO summit is getting under way in Washington, with support for Ukraine top of the agenda after a children's hospital was hit by a Russian missile. You can hear more about the damage caused by the attack and the world's reaction in the podcast below.

Wednesday 10 July 2024 20:58, UK

  • Kremlin responds to 'irresponsible' suggestion made by Starmer
  • Long-awaited fighter jets to take off in Ukraine 'this summer'
  • Zelenskyy appears to admit concern over what US election means for war
  • NATO allies commit to sending air defence systems to Ukraine
  • Ivor Bennett analysis: Deep concern in Russian coverage of NATO summit
  • Nicole Johnston: Focus on 'Ukraine of East Asia' as China mimics Russian rhetoric
  • Deborah Haynes: Fears UK defence approach not enough to meet mounting threats
  • Your questions answered: Has the West been honest about Ukraine's failures? | Is Kyiv next?
  • Listen to the Daily podcast above and  tap here  to follow wherever you get your podcasts 

We're pausing our coverage of the war in Ukraine here, but you can follow live updates on the NATO summit over on the  Politics Hub.

The summit, which comes on the 75th anniversary of the alliance, is a crucial moment for Ukraine, as the Biden administration seeks to bake in its support before the November election, which could see a second Donald Trump presidency and a dramatic shift in foreign policy.

For now, a new NATO command for Ukraine to provide security assistance and training is expected to be announced, alongside immediate military support, including air defence.

NATO's 32 members are poised to unveil "substantial" new aid and reiterate a membership pledge for Ukraine.

Alliance partners have already said they will deliver five additional Patriot and other air defence systems.

On the sidelines of the summit, Joe Biden is expected to meet Keir Starmer for their first face-to-face talks.

Before you switch over, here is a quick recap of today's key developments so far:

  • F-16 fighter jets will be flying in the skies of Ukraine this summer, said US secretary of state Antony Blinken;
  • Poland must prepare its soldiers for a "full-scale conflict", said its armed forces chief of staff;
  • NATO allies will announce a minimum baseline of €40bn (£33.8bn) in funding for Ukraine within the next year, the White House said;
  • Russia scrambled a fighter jet to escort a Norwegian patrol plane away from Russian airspace over the Barents Sea, according to the Russian defence ministry;
  • Foreign Secretary David Lammy demanded the immediate release of British national Vladimir Kara-Murza, held in "deplorable" conditions in Russia.

By Deborah Haynes , security and defence editor

Initial noises by the new British government on defence have stirred fears among experts that repairing the UK's war-fighting prowess is not a burning priority despite mounting threats.

Keir Starmer used a trip to Washington for a major NATO summit this week to declare a "cast iron" commitment to increase spending on the armed forces to 2.5% of national income, from just over 2% – but without setting a clear timeframe, which immediately makes the promise look weak to allies and foes.

The government also revealed that a "Strategic Defence Review" will be launched next week – but ministers could not say when that would be concluded either other than "within the next year".

It means any certainty on the size, shape and budget of the armed forces – hollowed out by decades of cuts under previous Conservative and Labour administrations – will not materialise until next summer, even though the problems plaguing defence are well known.

At the same time, Sir Keir will be pressuring other European allies to spend more on their militaries, as NATO countries in Europe adapt to be less reliant on the United States – a shift that will become more urgent if Donald Trump is re-elected to the White House.

"It's contradictory," a defence source said of the prime minister's position.

"The government will ask NATO members to spend 2.5% but will claim it won't do that itself until fiscal rules allow. To be honest, I'm confused."

John Healey, the new defence secretary, has spent the past four years preparing for the job and is very well informed about the challenges and complexities involved in rebuilding the armed forces and also securing much better value for money from the defence budget.

It means he will surely have ideas already about what the outcome of the review will be. 

He will also know that without swift, significant investment, difficult decisions will have to be made to cut programmes that currently are not funded.

Mr Healey will be overseeing the defence review – a return back to how this body of work used to be delivered when George Robertson was defence secretary in the 1990s.

By contrast, under successive Tory governments, these kind of assessments were renamed and widened into a strategic defence and security review and then an integrated review, headed by the Cabinet Office, that covered a much wider remit of foreign policy as well as security and areas such as science and technology.

Returning the running of this new review to the bowels of the Ministry of Defence will allow the armed forces and defence civil servants to have a lot more control over the narrative and the conclusions. 

But at the same time, it risks being far too limited in its remit to ensure the UK is prepared for war.

A future war would be an all-of-nation effort, requiring all departments of state to be prepared to play their part – something that they have not had to consider since the Cold War years.

In a statement released as part of the defence announcements today, Mr Healey said: "Our government's first duty is to keep the country safe. That's why we will increase defence spending and launch a Strategic Defence Review to ensure we have the capabilities needed to protect the UK now and in the future. 

"The review will also set out defence reforms to secure faster procurement and better value for money."

Poland must prepare its soldiers for a "full-scale conflict", says its armed forces chief of staff.

General Wieslaw Kukula said the country must find a balance between army training and border security.

The number of troops on the country's eastern border will increase from 6,000 to 8,000 by August, he said.

"Today, we need to prepare our forces for full-scale conflict, not an asymmetric-type conflict," said General Kukula.

In May, Poland announced details of "East Shield", a $2.5bn programme to beef up defences along its border with Belarus and Russia.

Belarus and China held military drills near the Polish border yesterday.

The border with Belarus has also been a flashpoint since migrants started arriving there in 2021.

Belarus had opened travel agencies in the Middle East offering a new unofficial route into Europe - a move the European Union said was designed to create a crisis. 

The size of the Polish armed forces stood at about 190,000 personnel at the end of last year.

Poland plans to increase this to 300,000 troops within a few years.

F-16 fighter jets will be flying in the skies of Ukraine this summer, says US secretary of state Antony Blinken.

The planes are en route to Ukraine from Denmark and the Netherlands right now, he said at the NATO summit in Washington.

An incredibly robust package for Ukraine will be unveiled over the next couple of days, added Mr Blinken.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he expected decisions on more F-16 jet deliveries will be made today.

"We are increasing the number of aircraft available to Ukraine," he said.

Norway has already announced at the summit that it will donate six F-16s.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg says it is too early to say when Ukraine will become a member of the alliance.

Speaking at the summit in Washington, he said Russia does not pose any military threat against NATO allies, being preoccupied with Ukraine.

The summit will lead to a substantial package for Ukraine, the secretary general said.

Sources have told Reuters that the latest draft of the summit's declaration says NATO will continue to support Ukraine on its "irreversible path to full Euro-Atlantic integration, including NATO membership".

By Ivor Bennett,  Moscow correspondent

The Russian media has generally sought to shrug off the NATO summit, playing down signs of unity within the alliance and talking up signs of division.

Much of the focus is on President Biden and the questions he faces over his suitability for office.

His pledge to defend Ukraine and defeat Russia was covered, but in the context that this is a man who is "out of touch with reality", according to the state-run tabloid Moskovsky Komsomolets.

The news outlet describes the US leader as "close to senility", claiming he is trying to salvage his "failed presidential campaign".

As for Ukraine's potential path to NATO membership, coverage has emphasised the hurdles Kyiv must overcome. 

Comments by Poland's President Andrzej Duda, in particular, that accession can't happen until the conflict ends, were seized upon by the TV talk show 60 Minutes. It described them as a "cold shower" for Zelenskyy.

But the fact there is all this coverage here, I think, betrays a deep concern.

The Kremlin knows President Zelenskyy will come away from this summit with more military aid. The question is how much?

According to an anonymous NATO official quoted by the Reuters news agency yesterday, Russia is suffering "very high" losses, and lacks the munitions and troops for a major offensive. 

If true, more weapons to Ukraine could create problems.

On the surface, though, there is little sign of alarm. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov merely said that Moscow will "closely monitor" what comes out of the summit.

Russia sent a fighter jet to escort a Norwegian patrol plane away from Russian airspace over the Barents Sea, the Russian defence ministry says.

There was no violation of the air border by the Norwegian patrol plane, the ministry said.

Russia has reported similar incidents before when its planes have confronted military aircraft from NATO countries.

Interfax reported this morning that Russian jet fighters also conducted drills over the sea and the Kola Peninsula.

It is unclear exactly when each of these incidents occurred.

NATO allies will announce at its summit today a minimum baseline of €40bn (£33.8bn) in funding for Ukraine within the next year, the White House says.

A senior civilian NATO representative will be stationed in Kyiv as part of its bridge to membership, it added.

Meanwhile, Norway has said it will donate six F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, daily newspaper Verdens Gang reported, citing the Norwegian prime minister at the summit.

Leaders from NATO's 32 member states are meeting in Washington until tomorrow to mark the 75th anniversary of the alliance, with support for Ukraine at the top of the agenda.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been invited to attend and discuss further support.

By Nicole Johnston , Asia correspondent in Beijing

NATO will appear focused on the Russia-Ukraine war this week, but there is another potential theatre of conflict in its sight - the Indo-Pacific.

NATO leaders understand that stability in the Indo-Pacific is essential to security in Europe and beyond: A war here would ripple across the world.

For that reason, representatives from Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand (called the IP4) are also at the NATO summit.

Secretary-general of the alliance Jens Stoltenberg wrote in Foreign Affairs this week that NATO had entered an era of "enduring competition with China".

The Indo-Pacific is being carved up by alliances and partnerships.

There is the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal between Australia, the UK and the US to counter China's military expansion. 

The "Quad" is a security forum between India, Australia, Japan and South Korea. 

This year the US held military training exercises with Japan and South Korea.

China's Communist Party feels hemmed in by these blocs. These alliances are taking shape in a region China regards as its own backyard. US influence here is not welcome.

The naval ships of Western countries are sailing through the East China Sea and South China Sea, off the coast of Taiwan and across the Pacific. China claims most of the South China Sea as its own.

The Chinese military is operating on the sea and in the skies close to forces from the US and Australia. There have been close calls. The risk of miscalculation is high.

China is alarmed by the strengthening ties between the IP4 and NATO.

On Monday, Lin Jian, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, accused NATO of "breaching its boundary, expanding its mandate, reaching beyond its defence zone and stoking confrontation".

China's argument has overtones of the rhetoric used by Russia in its justification for launching a war on Ukraine. 

Russia blamed NATO's eastward expansion. China compares US alliances in this region as being akin to a "NATO" in Asia.

China is also entangled in the Russia-Ukraine war. Officially it is neutral and calls for peace. But its ongoing trade with Russia allows President Vladimir Putin to continue the war.

The Chinese military has started 11 days of joint drills with Belarus close to the Polish and Ukrainian border, only a fortnight after the Polish president, Andrzej Duda, was in Beijing. 

The big question here is what happens in Taiwan. Japan has said the "Ukraine of today may be East Asia of tomorrow".

China is adamant Taiwan will unite with the mainland eventually.

What's unclear is how the myriad of US-led alliances in the Indo-Pacific would respond. 

Foreign Secretary David Lammy has demanded the immediate release of a British national being held in "deplorable" conditions in Russia.

He branded the sentencing of opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza to 25 years in prison "absurd".

Mr Kara-Murza, 42, was convicted of treason last year over public remarks critical of the Kremlin.

News broke last week that he was being transferred to a prison hospital and his lawyers had been unable to visit him there since Thursday.

"I am extremely concerned that Vladimir's lawyers are being denied access to him in prison hospital, and that the Russian authorities continue to refuse him consular assistance from the British Embassy," said Mr Lammy.

"Vladimir is being held in deplorable conditions in prison for having the courage to tell the truth about the war in Ukraine.

"His absurd 25-year sentence shows the Kremlin's deep fear that more Russians will know the reality of Putin's illegal war – and is further evidence of the targeted repression of the opposition."

Mr Kara-Murza has rejected the charges against him and likened the proceedings to the show trials under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. 

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    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 ...

  17. Travelling Europe by Train: What you Need to Know

    The differences between first and second class trains are most noticeable in Western Europe - France, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, Spain and Italy all have pretty luxurious first class options. For train travel through Eastern Europe, there's less of a difference as services are slower and trains older as a general rule.

  18. A Beginner's Guide to Interrailing Europe

    With a one-month ticket you can travel anywhere within Europe for just €12 or €17 per day. Continuous travel plans start on the date you choose the pass to start. You then have continuous unlimited travel during a 15- or 22-day period or for an entire month. Flexi passes last for 22 or 10 days from the starting date.

  19. Western Europe: Discover Europe by train

    Europe, the rail travel continent. By its very nature and history, Europe is the land of rail travel.It boasts the world's most developed and well-connected rail networks. Whether you choose to travel by scheduled or luxury train, Europe offers a wide choice of itineraries linking city centers and offering sumptuous landscapes.. Railroads first appeared in Europe and from the 1850s until the ...

  20. How to Travel Around Europe By Train In Two Weeks or Less

    With the Eurail Global Pass, you get unlimited travel on the national railways in these 28 European countries: The Eurail Global Pass allows you to choose either a continuous pass or flexipass. With the continuous pass, you have the option of unlimited travel for 15 days, 22 days, 1 month, 2 months or 3 months.

  21. The Ultimate Western Europe Itinerary for First-Time Visitors

    Planning The Prague Portion of Your Europe Itinerary. Time needed: Two to four days. Get there: From Munich, take a five-hour train for just $25 USD or a 4.5-hour bus for $25 USD. Depending on the time of year, you'll pay around $120 USD for a 1.5-hour flight that will take you from Munich to Prague.

  22. 10 Perfect Days In Western Europe (A First Timer's Itinerary)

    How To Spend 10 Perfect Days In Western Europe (A First Timer's Itinerary) Start the adventure in Paris, France with dinner in the picturesque Montmartre neighborhood and a picnic under the Eiffel Tower. Explore Brussels, Belgium by visiting the Grand Palace, indulging in Moules Frites for lunch, and taking a food tour and chocolate-making ...

  23. Train Travel in Western Europe

    Answer 1 of 24: Hi all, I have two general questions. I will be traveling to different countries in Western Europe during the summer. I am planning on using trains such as Deutsche Bahn, SBB, and ÖBB as primary transportations. Our itinerary is Amsterdam ->...

  24. 10 Mistakes I've Made Traveling Europe by Train

    I've been riding the rails in Europe for nearly 20 years, and I still occasionally step onto a train with a sense of uncertainty. Look, European rail stations can be bewildering places (mostly in a good way!), and if you're in a rush, you can turn right when you were supposed to turn left and end up standing on the wrong platform.

  25. All Aboard the Most Beautiful Rail Routes in Europe

    Traveling between Myrdal and Flåm in western Norway, the Flåm Railway is among the most historic and beautiful journeys in Europe. The route was built between 1923 and 1940 to serve villages ...

  26. Can a European sleeper train replace a pricey hotel? We tested it out

    In Europe, sleeper trains are experiencing a boom.Railway companies are introducing inaugural routes, expanded service and modernized cabins. Train enthusiasts are thrilled by the overnight train ...

  27. Amid War With Russia, Ukraine Is Expanding Its Railways in Europe

    A Ukrainian border guard in a camouflaged uniform faces a yellow and white Ukrzaliznytsia diesel train and a red Polish SKPL transport company train on two sets of railroad tracks in Rava-Ruska ...

  28. Ukraine-Russia war latest: Long-awaited fighter jets to take off in

    Belarus had opened travel agencies in the Middle East offering a new unofficial route into Europe - a move the European Union said was designed to create a crisis. ... The naval ships of Western ...