Europe is home to an incredible rail network that connects the continents’ major cities to each other. The train routes aren’t just a mere form of transportation but an experience in itself.
Why would any tourist opt for air travel when taking the train between these cities let you catch a glimpse of the scenic beauty that the countryside holds or the treasures of the urban hustle and bustle.
European railways offer a convenient and comfortable way to get across! Here’s the ultimate guide to travel through Europe by train.
Before getting into the specifics of train routes, let’s start with some things you should keep in mind before your journey begins.
Basics Of Travel Europe by Train
Plan your trip
Before you start booking your train tickets, it’s essential to have a clear idea of your itinerary. Consider which cities you want to visit, the length of time you have, and how much time you want to spend in each place. You can use online resources like Eurail and Interrail to help you plan your route and figure out how much time you’ll need for each stop.
Choose the right rail pass.
There are tons of options and rail passes out there but don’t let that confuse you. Being a tourist (I assume), it would only be appropriate for you to get your hands on a Eurail pass. These are passes strictly for non-European citizens.
Book your tickets in advance.
Booking your tickets in advance can save you a lot of money, and some train journeys require advance bookings. You can book your tickets online on the national railway websites or through third-party booking platforms like Rail Europe or Trainline.
Check train schedules!
Train schedules can change frequently, so it’s essential to check your train schedule regularly. Many European railway companies offer online timetables, and you can also check train schedules on travel apps like Rome2Rio.
Understand the train types
There are various types of trains in Europe, ranging from local and regional trains to high-speed trains like the TGV and Eurostar. High-speed trains are more expensive but faster and more comfortable, while regional trains are slower but cheaper. It’s essential to understand the differences between the train types to choose the right option for your journey.
Know the rules and regulations.
Different countries and train companies have different rules and regulations when it comes to train travel. It’s important to understand these rules to avoid any issues during your journey. For example, some trains require reservations, while others don’t allow you to bring bicycles on board.
Since we’re done with the basics, let’s get into the routes from city to city so you can plan out what’s best for you! These are some of the most popular rail routes of Europe, offering a comfortable and memorable journey!
9 Best Ways to Travel Europe by Train
1. The Orient Express
Today, the Orient Express is operated by the Belmond group and offers a variety of routes, each with its own unique itinerary and experience. One of the most popular routes is the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, which travels from London to Venice, passing through Paris, Innsbruck, and Verona.
The Orient Express offers a unique and unforgettable travel experience that’s steeped in history, luxury, and romance. It’s a perfect way to explore Europe’s most beautiful cities and landscapes while traveling in style and comfort.
2. The Eurostar
The Eurostar is a high-speed train service that connects London to Paris, Brussels, and other destinations in Europe via the Channel Tunnel, which is a 50 km long undersea rail tunnel that links the United Kingdom to France.
Operating from St Pancras International station in London, passing through the tunnel to arrive at either Gare du Nord in Paris or Brussels in Belgium. The train reaches a maximum speed of 300 km/h (186 mph), making it one of the fastest train services in Europe.
The journey time from London to Paris or Brussels is around 2 hours, making it a convenient and efficient way to travel between the UK and Europe. There are also direct Eurostar services to other destinations such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Lille, and Disneyland Paris.
Overall, the Eurostar is a fast, reliable, and comfortable way to travel between the UK and Europe, and it’s a popular choice for both business and leisure travelers.
3. Trans-Siberian Railway
A legendary train journey that takes you across Russia, from Moscow to Vladivostok, covering a distance of over 9,000 kilometers.
Spanning across Russia, from Moscow in the west to Vladivostok in the east, covering a distance of over 9,000 kilometers.
The journey takes around 7-8 days to complete, depending on the route and the stops along the way.
The high-speed train service in France, connecting major cities like Paris, Marseille, Lyon, and Strasbourg.
5. The Glacier Express
A scenic train journey that travels through the Swiss Alps, offering breath-taking views of snow-capped mountains, glaciers, and picturesque valleys.
It’s often referred to as the “slowest express train in the world” because of its leisurely pace and emphasis on enjoying the scenery.
The journey covers a distance of 290 km and takes around 8 hours to complete, with several stops along the way to allow passengers to take in the scenery, explore the local villages, and enjoy a meal at one of the train’s onboard restaurants.
The train journey starts in the mountain resort of Zermatt. It then travels through the Swiss Alps, passing through several mountain passes, valleys, and small villages before reaching its final destination of St. Moritz.
6. ÖBB (Österreichische Bundesbahnen)
ÖBB (Österreichische Bundesbahnen) is the national railway company of Austria. ÖBB operates a comprehensive rail network throughout Austria, with connections to neighboring countries, including Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia.
ÖBB offers a range of train services, including regional trains, intercity trains, and high-speed rail services. The high-speed rail services are operated by the Railjet train, which connects Vienna with major cities such as Salzburg, Innsbruck, Graz, and Linz. The Railjet offers amenities such as free Wi-Fi, power outlets, and a dining car serving a variety of food and drinks.
Thalys is a high-speed train service that connects major cities in Western Europe, including Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, and Cologne. Thalys trains are operated by a consortium of national railway companies from France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, and they run on dedicated high-speed lines.
One of the main features of Thalys trains are their speed, with some trains reaching top speeds of up to 300 km/h. This allows passengers to travel quickly and conveniently between major cities, with journey times ranging from just over an hour between Brussels and Paris to around 3.5 hours between Paris and Amsterdam.
8. The Bernina express
The Bernina Express is a scenic train route that travels through the Swiss Alps, connecting the towns of Chur in Switzerland and Tirano in Italy. The train route passes through the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Rhaetian Railway, which is known for its spectacular mountain landscapes, alpine meadows, and deep gorges.
The Bernina Express route covers a distance of 122 km, and it takes around 4 hours to complete the journey. The train travels along the famous Bernina Pass, reaching an altitude of 2,253 meters at the Ospizio Bernina station, which is the highest point on the route.
Along the way, the train passes through several charming alpine towns and villages, including St. Moritz, Poschiavo, and Le Prese, providing opportunities for sightseeing, hiking, and exploring the local culture and cuisine
One of the highlights of the Bernina Express is the panoramic windows, which offer unobstructed views of the stunning mountain scenery along the route. The train also features comfortable seats, air conditioning, and an audio guide that provides information about the landscapes and attractions.
9. Intercités de Nuit.
Intercités de Nuit is a night train service operated by the French national railway company, SNCF. The service connects various cities in France, such as Paris, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Nice, and Briançon, with comfortable overnight trains that allow passengers to travel while they sleep.
Intercités de Nuit offers several types of sleeping accommodations, including couchettes with 4 or 6 berths and private sleeper cabins with 1, 2, or 3 beds. The sleeper cabins come with pillows, blankets, and towels, and some also include an en-suite toilet and sink.
The night trains also offer dining cars where passengers can enjoy a meal or a drink during their journey. Additionally, each compartment has power outlets for charging electronic devices, and the trains have luggage storage facilities as well.
Intercités de Nuit trains typically depart in the evening and arrive at their destinations in the morning, allowing passengers to maximize their time during the day for sightseeing and other activities. The overnight trains offer a convenient and cost-effective way to travel long distances, as passengers can save on hotel costs while also getting to their destination comfortably and quickly.
Allow me to end by saying that train travel in Europe is a unique and enjoyable experience. Take the time to enjoy the scenery, meet new people, and soak up the culture and history of each destination. With the right planning and preparation, you can have a memorable and unforgettable journey across Europe by train!