As the movement towards flight-free travel gains traction and the popularity of interrailing continues to grow, European train journeys are making a remarkable comeback.
Spain’s national rail operator, Renfe, has recently unveiled its first high-speed train connection with France. Furthermore, starting from 25th March 2024, European Sleeper, a night train start-up, will extend its Brussels-Berlin service to Prague.
Switching up your travel mode is not just an eco-conscious choice, but also a stylish and efficient way to get around. For instance, when you fly from London to Paris, you release 14 times more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than you would by taking a train.
Thankfully, European countries are heavily investing in their railway networks, offering improved and faster connections to passengers. From budget-friendly night trains to cross-country routes, let’s explore the latest European railway options.
Vienna to Paris with Nightjet
Austria’s national rail firm, ÖBB, has been leading the renaissance of sleeper trains in Europe since 2016. In late 2021, they introduced a new route connecting Vienna and Paris through Salzburg and Munich. The journey, spanning 14 hours, operates three times a week in both directions, with ticket prices ranging from approximately €30 for a seat to €120 and above for a private compartment. In the summer of 2023, Nightjet unveiled their new-generation trains, equipped with wireless charging stations, free Wi-Fi, secure storage for bicycles and snow sports equipment, and private compartments featuring showers and toilets.
Vienna to Genoa and La Spezia with Nightjet
Nightjet expanded its 2023 timetable by extending the Vienna/Munich service to include stops in Genoa and La Spezia, Italy. From there, travellers can connect to trains bound for Monaco, Nice, and Cinque Terre.
Brussels to Berlin via Amsterdam with European Sleeper
After much anticipation, European Sleeper, a Belgian-Dutch social cooperative, launched its maiden route from Brussels to Berlin via Amsterdam on 25th May. This single-change journey connects passengers to Paris, London, Prague, and Warsaw. Starting from 25th March 2024, the service will further extend to Dresden and Prague.
Liège to Aachen and Maastricht with Arriva, SNCB, and NS (December 2023)
A brand new three-country train service will link Aachen in Germany, Liège in Belgium, and Maastricht in the Netherlands. This project is a collaborative effort between Arriva, part of Germany’s Deutsche Bahn Group, SNCB, the National Railway Company of Belgium, and NS, Nederlandse Spoorwegen.
Prague to Zurich with ČD
In December 2022, České dráhy (ČD), the national rail operator of the Czech Republic, introduced a sleeper service linking Prague to Zurich with stops at Frankfurt and Basel. This overnight journey, reviving a service that ceased in 2017, takes slightly under 14 hours and offers a range of fare options, from six-bed couchettes to deluxe sleeper compartments with en-suite toilets and showers. Tickets for a berth in a six-bed couchette start from €49.90.
Paris to Bourg-Saint-Maurice with Ouigo Grande Vitesse (December 2023)
Embrace the winter wonderland in the Alps with the return of Ouigo’s Paris-Bourg train, running from 14th December to 24th March. Bourg is nestled at the base of the Les Arcs skiing area, and a funicular railway swiftly transports you from the town to the Arc 1600 ski resort in just seven minutes.
Paris to Aurillac with SNCF (December 2023)
The Paris-Aurillac night train, out of service since the early 2000s, is set to make a triumphant comeback later this year. SNCF Voyageurs has announced that Le Pyrénéen and L’Occitan night trains will connect the French capital with the south-central commune from 10th December 2023. A daily train will serve Cantal during holiday periods, with Friday and Sunday evening services available in each direction the rest of the time. This initiative is part of a broader effort to revive France’s night trains, which has already included the Paris-Nice and Paris-Lourdes services.
Paris to Berlin with Nightjet (2023) and TGV (2024)
Austrian rail operator ÖBB’s Nightjet is set to relaunch its Berlin-Paris service on December 11, 2023, after a nine-year hiatus. Initially, it will offer three trips per week, with plans to provide daily service from autumn 2024. France and Germany have jointly announced a new TGV train route connecting Paris and Berlin, scheduled to begin in 2024. This high-speed link will significantly reduce travel times, eliminating the need for passengers to change trains at separate stations, such as Cologne or Frankfurt, and allowing them to complete the journey in about seven hours.
Paris to Madrid with Trenitalia (late 2024)
In December 2022, FS Italiane Group, the owner of Italy’s national state-owned railway Trenitalia, unveiled plans for a high-speed Frecciarossa train connection between Paris and Madrid. This new train will link Paris and Barcelona, where an existing high-speed service already connects to the Spanish capital. The service is expected to launch in late 2024, with potential for additional routes linking Madrid with Italy through France.
Paris to Venice with Midnight Trains (2025)
French startup Midnight Trains is set to connect France and Italy with a new night train service from Paris to Venice via Milan, commencing in 2025 and backed by the European Commission. This development will simplify and expedite train travel for UK residents heading to Italy.
Berlin to Stockholm with Snälltåget
Swedish railway company Snälltåget has rerouted its Berlin to Malmö train service through Hamburg and Denmark, extending it to Stockholm. This comprehensive journey takes just under 17 hours, and direct service prices start at around €50.
Munich to Genoa and La Spezia with Nightjet
Nightjet’s 2023 timetable expansion saw its Vienna/Munich service to Milan extended to include stops in Genoa and La Spezia, Italy, offering further connections to Monaco, Nice, and Cinque Terre.
Stuttgart to Zagreb and Rijeka with Nightjet and EuroNight
In their 2023 timetable, Nightjet expanded its sleeper train service from Munich to Venice, Ljubljana, and Zagreb, now originating in Stuttgart, Germany. Seasonally, this route will also operate to the coastal Croatian city of Rijeka, with a total journey time of approximately 15 hours. The Nightjet to Venice travels via Munich, Salzburg, and Treviso, while the service to the Croatian and Slovenian capitals is provided by Croatian Railways HŽ and Slovenian Railways SŽ, operated under ÖBB’s EuroNight.
Brussels to Berlin with European Sleeper
Liège to Aachen and Maastricht with Arriva, SNCB, and NS (December 2023)
Genoa to Naples with NTV Italo
In late 2021, the Italian high-speed rail company NTV Italo launched a service connecting Genoa, a previously poorly connected port city in Italy’s northwest, to the south of the country. This journey from Genoa to Naples takes just under seven hours, with prices starting at around €80 for a return trip.
Milan to Paris with Frecciarossa
Also in late 2021, Frecciarossa, the high-speed branch of Italy’s national train operator Trenitalia, unveiled a luxurious new train route between Milan and Paris. Faster and more opulent than previous services on this route, the journey lasts just under seven hours, with tickets as affordable as €29, although executive fares offer a more comfortable experience.
Rome to Pompeii with Frecciarossa
In July, Italy launched a direct high-speed train service from Rome to Pompeii and back. This service links the capital with the popular archaeological site in southern Italy’s Campania region in under two hours, departing from Rome at 8:53 am and returning from Pompeii at 6:40 pm. Initially, the service will only run on the third Sunday of each month, but future expansions are possible.
Porto to Lisbon and Vigo with the Iberian high-speed rail network (construction starting in 2024)
Portugal has greenlit plans for a high-speed rail line connecting Lisbon, Porto, and Vigo, as part of the broader Iberian high-speed rail network that will unify Portugal and link it with Spain. This transformative rail link will reduce the travel time between Porto and Lisbon from nearly three hours to just 1 hour and 15 minutes, ultimately connecting Portuguese cities with Vigo in Spain.
Amsterdam to Austria with TUI’s Ski Express
For snow sports enthusiasts, a new overnight train route is set to launch between Amsterdam and several of Austria’s top ski resorts. TUI’s ‘Ski Express’ departs from Amsterdam every Friday night between December 23 and March 31, stopping at Utrecht before heading directly to Austria.
Amsterdam to Zurich with Nightjet
Austria-led night train pioneer Nightjet introduced a route between Amsterdam and Zurich in late 2021, departing at 8:30 pm and arriving at 8:05 am. Travellers can choose from couchettes, starting from around €60, to sleeper cabins, beginning at approximately €120.
Amsterdam to Barcelona with European Sleeper (Spring 2025)
The Dutch-Belgian train operator, European Sleeper, which is set to launch soon, aims to introduce a new night train service from Amsterdam to Barcelona in the spring of 2025, significantly improving north-south rail connections in Europe.
Amsterdam to Berlin with Qbuzz (January 2027)
Qbuzz is taking advantage of the EU’s ‘open access’ railway package by applying for three new train connections: Amsterdam to Eindhoven, Amsterdam to Berlin, and Amsterdam to Paris. Pending approval by the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM), these routes could become operational starting from January 2027.
Madrid to Alicante and Valencia with Ouigo, Avlo, and Iryo
In November 2022, SNCF-owned Ouigo introduced a new high-speed, budget-friendly route between Madrid and Valencia. By summer 2023, the service will expand to include Alicante. Initially, tickets will be priced at €9 one-way with one suitcase, eventually stabilising at around €30. Renfe’s Aryo, another low-cost operator, is set to launch its Madrid to Alicante service on March 27, starting at just €7, with Iryo launching a similar service on 2nd June. In 2023 and 2024, Ouigo intends to extend its services to Cordoba, Seville, Malaga, and the Costa del Sol.
Barcelona to Madrid with Iryo
A new high-speed rail service from Iryo, a consortium between Spanish airline Air Nostrum and Italian train company Trenitalia, has made traveling between Spain’s capital and its top tourist city faster and more affordable since November 2022. Iryo offers 16 return trains daily between Barcelona and Madrid, with a travel time of as little as 2.5 hours each way, all for a cost of just €18. Starting 31st March 2023, this low-cost rail provider will also launch a service between Malaga, Madrid, and Cordoba, with a journey time of three hours. From June 2023, Renfe’s Avlo will connect Madrid with Malaga and Seville.
Barcelona to Lyon via Montpellier and Nimes with Renfe
Spain’s state-owned rail network is introducing new high-speed AVE services to France in 2023. The Barcelona-Lyon service commenced on 13th July, with a journey lasting approximately five hours. Departing from Barcelona in the morning, it stops at Girona, Figueres Vilafant, Perpignan, Narbonne, Béziers, Montpellier-St-Roch, Nîmes, and Valence along the way. Starting from September 1, the train will operate daily. Tickets for the full route are available for as low as €29.
Madrid to Marseille via Barcelona with Renfe
Renfe’s plan to expand its train services into France includes another route introduced on 28th July between Madrid and Marseille. Initially, trains will operate from Fridays to Mondays but are expected to run daily from September. Further routes connecting to Paris are anticipated in 2024, just in time for the Olympic Games.
Ljubljana to Budapest with Hungarian Railways
Launched in December 2021, the Hungarian Railways train travels from Ljubljana, Slovenia to Budapest, Hungary via Graz, Austria, offering a scenic journey. The trip takes approximately 7.5 hours, with prices starting as low as €16 each way.
Stockholm to Hamburg with SJ EuroNight
Launched in September 2022, the Stockholm Central to Hamburg-Altona night train operates on renewable energy. Departing daily at 5:30 pm and arriving at 6:30 am, the journey includes a stop in Copenhagen. Travel options range from seats in a carriage (starting from €25) to shared compartment beds (beginning at €45), as well as private compartments for two passengers with a sink (from around €165). For those seeking added comfort, private compartments for one to three travellers include showers, toilets, and breakfast, starting at around €205. Pet-friendly train compartments are also available. Combined with existing Eurostar and Deutsche Bahn services, this train allows travellers to reach Stockholm from London in under 24 hours.
Zurich to Rome with Nightjet
In a 2020 press conference, Nightjet announced its plans to launch a new night train route between Zurich and Rome in winter 2022. However, whether this project proceeds as scheduled remains to be seen. Presently, Nightjet’s Rome routes include Vienna, Salzburg, Villach, and Munich.
London to Bordeaux with HS1 (approximately 2026)
The UK’s High Speed 1 (HS1), which operates the Channel Tunnel railway line, is preparing to introduce a new route from London to Bordeaux. Currently this journey runs via Paris and takes around 6 hours. A new route would bypass the capital and cut the journey time down to 5 hours