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Travelling by train in Europe

With an extremely well-connected rail network, travelling by train in Europe has never been easier. Whether you’ve got your sights set on Europe’s iconic landmarks, lazy days on the beach or hiking in the mountains, hopping on a train is a convenient way to explore everything that this fascinating continent has to offer.    

With so many languages, countries and train companies to navigate, we’re here to help make booking your train tickets in Europe as simple as possible – so let’s get started – simply enter your origin and destination in our journey planner above or read on to find out more about travelling by train in Europe. 

Europe train map

Flying may give you a bird’s-eye view, but to get to know a country you need to see it from the ground. Our Europe train map shows some of the most popular locations you can travel between by train.

Taking the train in Europe is often quicker (and greener) than catching a flight from one destination to another. From your train window, you can imagine just how tall those snow-capped mountains are, or just how wide that forest stretches, as it whizzes past your carriage. 

If you're ready to start planning your trip around Europe by train, check out our interactive European train map

European train types

While train models and their on-board facilities vary between the different European rail companies, the types of trains you’ll travel on are very similar across all countries. We’ve listed the most common types of trains you can find yourself on in Europe below.

Often a quicker and more convenient alternative to flying, international or cross border trains make it easy to travel around Europe. Travel from the UK to France, from France to Germany and Spain, and from Germany to Italy, Austria and Switzerland in no time at all.  

Eurostar  

Renfe-SNCF 

Thalys 

TGV Lyria 

With the exception of the UK, most European countries have one or two main train companies that run regional, short-distance and commuter trains. 

Virgin – UK 

Renfe – Spain  

Trenitalia – Italy  

SNCF – France  

DB – Germany 

Usually the quickest way to travel between European destinations, high-speed trains connect major cities throughout Europe, with most countries offering a high-speed train service.

Visit our high-speed trains in Europe page for more information or check out some of the main offerings below. 

ICE – Germany   

Frecciarossa – Italy 

AVE – Spain 

TGV – France 

Ideal for those who want to spend their days exploring rather than travelling, night trains in Europe let you arrive at your destination rested and ready for the day. Fall asleep in Milan and wake up rested in Paris, sleeper trains often connect major destinations in Europe and are a practical solution for those who want to save on accommodation costs.  

Visit our night trains in Europe page to find out more.

OBB Nightjet

Thello 

There’s so much to see out of your window when travelling Europe by train – but some views are extra special. Scenic trains in Europe can get you up close and personal with rugged coastlines, breath-taking mountains and beautiful viaducts. Why not check out some of our favourite scenic train rides for some inspiration?  

Glacier Express  

Bernina Express

European Country highlights

Europe is small when you travel by train. In just a few hours, you can whizz across countries, between city centres and swap the Mediterranean seaside for cool mountain ranges or soft green hills. Here’s our guide to some of the countries in Europe you can travel around by train. If you're looking for Europe itineraries, we've got those too!

Italy 🇮🇹

Art / Cuisine / History / Cities

Italy is home to some of the world’s finest artwork, extraordinarily good cuisine, a long and varied history that extends far beyond the Roman Empire, and an unquestionable need to live la dolce vita. 

Travel around this beautiful country and visit the iconic cities of RomeFlorence and Milan coming face-to-face with the artworks of Europe’s Renaissance masters – the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo’s David, and da Vinci’s The Last Supper. Beyond the city walls, Italy’s varied landscape is a must-see – from the icy reaches of the Alps to the glistening azure ocean in the south. And don’t forget the food! Whether you’re enjoying a fresh, fire-baked pizza, refreshing gelato or a tagliatelle al ragù smothered in Parmigiano-Reggiano – you’ll always eat well in Italy. 

Find out more about trains in Italy

France 🇫🇷

Art / Cuisine / History / Cities

The elegance, gastronomy and cultural history of France are matched by few. More than 86 million people* descend on this picturesque country each year, making it the most visited place on earth.  

Come to France and be seduced by its café culture, iconic landmarks and indulgent cuisine. SNCF trains make it easy to travel around this country by train – enjoy a freshly baked croissant while wandering the cobbled streets and famous sites of Paris, then hop over to Bordeaux for a refreshing glass or two of vin rouge. In the north, you’ll find rocky, windswept coastlines and rolling green pastoral lands, a stark contrast to the sun-baked Mediterranean shores of Nice in the south. If cooler climates are more your thing, head to the snow-capped Alpine region to the east.

Find out more about trains in France

*Based on World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) 2018 data

Spain 🇪🇸

Beaches / Cuisine / History / Art

The sultry sun-soaked shores, vibrant cities and snow-capped Pyrenees of Spain have long been a magnet for tourists during all seasons. This passionate country is full of diverse cultures, good food and a belief that life shouldn’t be taken too seriously. 

It’s the small things in Spain that will charm you most – from the sweep of a flamenco dancer to the clink of cerveza glasses. Renfe trains can whisk you from the bustling Las Rambles in Barcelona to some of the best restaurants in the world in San Sebastian in no time. You’ll find signs of Spain’s extraordinary history dotted throughout the country – expect ancient castles, Roman amphitheatre ruins and exquisite examples of Islamic architecture. If you’re feeling like a fiesta, head to the Southern shores of Malaga for a night you won’t forget. 

Find out more about trains in Spain

Germany 🇩🇪

Cool / Tech / Culture / Countryside

A powerhouse in Europe, Germany is home to trend-setting cities, emerald forests, over 2,000 kilometres of coastline and the odd fairy tale castle dotted along the way.  

Travel around the country that gave us Albert Einstein, Karl Lagerfeld and Beethoven (to name a few) with Deutsche Bahn and immerse yourself in German culture. No trip is complete without a visit to capital city Berlin, with its urban artwork, lively nightlife and iconic landmarks. Be sure to stop at Germany’s other vibrant cities too – Frankfurt and Cologne are full of fascinating museums, period architecture and unique gastronomy. We can’t go on without mentioning Germany’s biggest Bavarian party – Oktoberfest – which hosts more than six million people dressed in lederhosen each year. 

Find out more about trains in Germany

Belgium 🇧🇪

Cuisine / History / Art / Cities

Belgium may be a small nation, but its impressive range of languages ​​and cultural influences make it an unmissable place to visit.  

With the longest train journey in the country clocking in at around just two hours, SNCB trains make exploring this charming country easy. Home to the European Union, Belgium’s capital city Brussels is well worth a visit for all food, art and beer lovers. Immerse yourself in Flemish tradition and Renaissance architecture in the historic port city of Antwerp, then wander the Medieval streets and take in the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Ghent – Belgium’s best-kept secret.   

Find out more about trains in Belgium.

The Netherlands 🇳🇱

Culture / Art / Countryside / Cool

With welcoming cities, colourful tulip-laden fields and 250 km of dune filled coastline, the Netherlands is a culture-filled country just waiting to be explored.  

No trip to the Netherlands is complete without a visit to Amsterdam – one of the most popular destinations in Europe. Wander along the canals of this quirky capital city, pay a poignant visit to Anne Frank’s house or immerse yourself in the art of Van Gogh. Hop on an NS train and be whisked along to Rotterdam – this modern city is extremely passionate about football, so sporting fans should make time to catch a match. Head to Scheveningen Beach in The Hague during the summer months to catch some rays.  

Find out more about trains in the Netherlands

Switzerland

Nature / History / Adventure / Cities

Ideally located in the heart of Europe, trains in Switzerland offer breath-taking views of mountains, lakes and waterfalls on their journeys. 

Switzerland is well connected by rail, thanks to SBB trains. As a relatively small country, it’s easy to see several destinations by train without too much travel time. Visit elegant Geneva, the gateway to Europe from Switzerland, then Bern, home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Don’t miss Zurich on your trip either, the financial capital of Switzerland and with a historic centre of great value. 

Find out more about trains in Switzerland. 

UK & Great Britain 🇬🇧

Cosy pubs / Hikes / Food and Theatre / Castles

Each country in the United Kingdom is unique in its own right. Although you’ll still find an intrinsic bond which holds England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland together – from lingering over a pint by a crackling fire in a cosy pub to a dry sense of humour and newspaper-wrapped chips. 

Travelling by train in the UK opens up a world of possibility. Glide from London’s iconic landmarks to dramatic moorlands in a couple of hours. Wander along coastal pathways then step back in time with a visit to one of the many historic castles and stately homes in this green and pleasant land. Seek out Nessie in Scotland or taste drams of single malt whiskey in Edinburgh. And don’t forget about a hike amongst the rolling hills and dramatic landscapes of Wales

Find out more about trains in Britain

European train tickets

With so many countries and train companies to navigate across Europe, it can be difficult to know where to start when booking your tickets. We’re here to help you make the process as simple as possible

Ticket types 

Depending on the country and train company you’re travelling with, most European train tickets are divided into two categories –  advance purchase or on the day. UK train tickets are also divided by time of travel.  

Europe
Train prices are categorised by distance and are often released in tiers. A certain amount of discounted price tickets are released first, then once those sell out the next lowest price will be released – and so on.  

UK
Tickets are divided into categories depending on the time of day. This segmentation is based on how busy trains are likely to be, with tickets during less popular travel times being cheaper than those for peak travel times. For more information, check our  Off-Peak train times page.

Mobile Tickets and etickets  

It’s easier than ever these days to go paperless. Many train companies across Europe offer the option of using Mobile Tickets or etickets on your journey. If you book using our app, you’ll receive a Mobile Ticket with a QR-code – no more worrying about lost paper tickets. Find out more on about Mobile Tickets

 

European rail passes  

With over 10,000 destinations just waiting to be discovered across Europe, using a European rail pass can be a flexible and money saving way to travel across the continent. There are a few different types of rail pass available, depending on your nationality and where you’d like to travel in Europe. Find out more on our dedicated rail passes page. 

How to buy cheap train tickets in Europe

There are a few different ways you can save money on your European train tickets. Check out these handy hints to help you buy the tickets you need at the right price, and hopefully save a few pennies in the process.

Book in advance

Train tickets in Europe are usually at their cheapest price when they first go on sale. Advance ticket releases can vary depending on the country and train company you’re travelling with, but generally go on sale around three to six months before the date of travel. 

Travel off-peak

Most train tickets across Europe tend to be more expensive during “rush hours” (generally between 06:00 – 10:00 and 15:00 – 19:00 on weekdays). If you can, be sure to look for tickets outside of these times to see if you can snap up a lower price.

Benefit from special offers

Check to see if you can benefit from the wide range of discounts available for train travellers in Europe. It varies between country and train company, but often if you’re travelling with children, in a group or fall into a certain age category, you can benefit from discounted ticket prices.

Look out for slower or connecting trains

Depending on the route you're travelling, you can sometimes take a slower train or change trains during your journey for a cheaper price. You may arrive at your destination a little later than high-speed or direct services, but for those with a little extra time on their hands it’s a great money-saver.

Find out more about ways to save on our cheap European train tickets page.

Travel by bus in Europe

It may be the slower option, but Europe’s extensive bus network often offers lower fares than trains for the same journey. With most bus companies providing similar onboard amenities to trains such as air-conditioning, WiFi and power sockets, taking the bus can be a relaxing way to cruise between destinations.

Check out our dedicated buses in Europe page to find out more. 

European airport transfers

If you’re flying into a European airport to start your trip, then you’re in luck – the main airports in Europe usually come with their very own train station or are well connected to the local rail and bus network.  

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