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Travelling by train in Europe

It’s easy to travel on trains in Europe. The continent’s well-connected rail network means you can travel on high-speed trains as well as regional and sleeper trains.

Whether you’ve got your sights set on Europe’s iconic landmarks, lazy days on the beach or hiking in the mountains, hopping on a train in Europe 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.

European train tickets

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.

Advance European train tickets

In France, Italy and Spain

You can buy your train tickets in advance if you’re travelling on an Intercity or high-speed train in France, Italy and Spain, as well as an international train to or from France. Ticket prices are dynamic like air fares – they’re cheaper when you book in advance than when you buy on the day. The most expensive fares usually allow refunds and changes to travel plans, while the cheapest fares don’t. Also, every ticket includes a reserved seat, so you need to book in advance before all seats are filled up.

In the UK, Germany and Austria

If you’re travelling on an Intercity train in the UK, Germany and Austria, you can choose to buy your train tickets in advance or on the day. You can buy your tickets in advance if you want to save money and are happy to commit to a specific train with limited or no refunds nor changes to travel plans. These advance tickets go by various names in the different countries: Advance train tickets in the UK, Sparpreis in Germany, and Sparschiene in Austria.

In the UK, fares are 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 times page.

If you want to travel at any time of day on any train, you can buy a flexible full-price ticket on the day. Flexible full-price tickets are usually more expensive but they allow you to make changes to your booking, as well as request a refund where applicable.  

Whether you buy your ticket in advance or on the day, you won’t get a reserved seat included in the price – you can get on the train and sit anywhere you like, or you can pay an extra fee to reserve your seat.

European train tickets on the day

You can buy tickets on the day for most European local, regional and suburban trains. The ticket price is fixed so there’s no price advantage when you book them in advance. For example, a one-way ticket to travel on the Leonardo Express – the regional train which connects Roma Termini to Rome Fiumicino Airport – always costs €14, so you don’t need to book it in advance, unless you want peace of mind.

On most local, regional and suburban trains in Europe, seat reservation is not necessary and, in most cases, not even available. You just buy a fixed-price ticket and sit anywhere you like.

Mobile Tickets and etickets

It’s easier than ever these days to go paperless with digital tickets. 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. If you buy your ticket from our website, you’ll receive an email with your eticket attached as a PDF, which you can either open from your email or in our app. Find out more about Digital tickets.

How to book European train tickets online

When you make a search in our Journey Planner, we will list all the trains running on your chosen day of travel. For each train, we'll show you the following info:

Cheapest price

By default, we’ll highlight the cheapest fare option available on that service. In this case, it's the PREM’s fare – one of the cheapest fares offered by SNCF. However, you can opt for a fully flexible fare for an additional cost.

Train number

Underneath the selected journey is the train number for that service. This will be displayed on your ticket. 'TGV INOUI 6607’ means that you'll be taking a high-speed TGV train.

Departure and arrival times and stations

Finally, we will show you the time this train is meant to depart and arrive and the departure and arrival stations. Some cities have more than one station – Paris Gare de Lyon is different from Paris Gare du Nord – so this is important! For an intercity service such as this one, you must catch the specific train you've booked. Don’t just jump on the first one that arrives on the platform!

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 tickets generally go on sale around three to six months before the date of travel. Advance tickets are usually released in tiers. The cheapest tier of tickets is released first; once these have sold out, the next tier is released, and so on.

Learn more about cheap European train tickets.

Travel Off-Peak

Most train tickets across Europe tend to be more expensive during rush hour (generally between 06:00 and 10:00, and 15:00 and 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 the best train deals in Europe

There’s a wide range of train deals and discounts in Europe that can help you save money on your journey. Deals can vary based on the country and train company, but if you’re travelling with children, in a group or fall into a certain age category, you can benefit from discounted ticket prices.

Find the latest European train deals and discounts.

Look out for slower or connecting trains

Depending on the route you're travelling on, 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.

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.

Interrail Pass

An Interrail Pass offers unlimited train travel across Europe. Choose between a Global Pass for cross-border travel and a One Country Pass for unlimited travel in a nominated country. Interrail Passes can only be used by European citizens and permanent residents of Europe.

Discover the Interrail Pass.

Eurail Pass

Just like an Interrail Pass, a Eurail Pass allows unlimited train travel across Europe, the only difference being that it’s only available for non-European citizens or residents.

Learn more about the Eurail Pass.

BritRail Pass

A BritRail Pass allows unlimited train travel across the UK and is suitable for non-UK citizens who haven't lived in the UK for the last 6 months or more. Choose between a Consecutive Pass for travelling around Britain for a set number of days in a row and a Flexi Pass for travelling around Britain for a set number of days over a period of 1 calendar month.

Find out more about the BritRail Pass.

Swiss Rail Passes

With a Swiss Rail Pass, you'll get to enjoy unlimited travel on Swiss trains, buses, boats, cable cars and public transport in more than 90 cities.

Discover the different types of Swiss Rail Passes available.

Trains in Europe 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 rail routes across Spain, France, Switzerland, Germany and Italy.

Taking the train in Europe is often quicker (and greener) than catching a flight from one destination to another. Major cities across the continent can be reached by high-speed services in no time. For example, you can get from London to Paris in just 2h 16m on the fastest Eurostar services – you’ll travel from one city centre to another so you won’t even have to worry about airport transfers or parking, making train travel a breeze.

Ready to start planning your trip around Europe by train? Check out our interactive European train map.

Types of trains in Europe

While train models and their onboard 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 in Europe you can find yourself on below.

International trains

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.

International trains Top routes Fastest journey time
Eurostar London to Brussels 2h 3m
Renfe-SNCF Paris to Barcelona 6h 21m
Thalys Paris to Brussels 1h 22m
TGV Lyria Paris to Geneva 3h 15m

High-speed trains

High-speed trains are usually the quickest way to get around Europe by train, with most countries offering a high-speed train service. Travelling at speeds of up to 248 mph (400 km/h), you’ll reach your destination before you even know it! Here’s an overview of the main high-speed trains in Europe:

High-speed trains Maximum speed Top routes Fastest journey time
Frecciarossa 1000 248 mph (400 km/h) Milan to Rome 3h 10m
Italo 223.6 mph (360 km/h) Rome to Venice 3h 47m
TGV 200 mph (320 km/h) Paris to Lyon 1h 56m
AVE 193 mph (310 km/h) Barcelona to Madrid 2h 30m
Avlo 205 mph (330 km/h) Madrid to Zaragoza 1h 19m
ICE 186 mph (300 km/h) Munich to Berlin 3h 52m
Railjet 142.9 mph (230 km/h) Vienna to Munich 4h
Javelin 140 mph (225 km/h) Margate to London 1h 24m

Night trains

Ideal for those who want to spend their days exploring rather than travelling, night trains in Europe will take you to your destination well-rested and ready for the day. European sleeper trains often connect major cities in Europe and are a practical solution for those who want to save on accommodation costs.

Night trains Top routes Journey time
ÖBB Nightjet Munich to Salzburg 1h 29m
Intercités de Nuit Paris to Toulouse 7h 40m
Trenhotel Barcelona to Vigo Guixar 10h 30m
Caledonian Sleeper London Euston to Edinburgh 7h 33m
Night Riviera London to Penzance 8h 5m

Regional trains

Regional trains are an excellent way to discover Europe. These trains may not always have the luxury or speed of high-speed trains, but they're still a very comfortable way to get around. With the exception of the UK, most European countries have one or two main train companies that run regional, short-distance and commuter trains.

Regional trains Top routes Journey time
Leonardo Express Roma Termini to Rome Fiumicino Airport 32m
Malpensa Express Milano Centrale to Milan Malpensa Airport 50m
Cinque Terre Express La Spezia Centrale to Monterosso 14m
Trenord Milan to Como 37m
WESTbahn Vienna to Salzburg 2h 15m
Regionalbahn Cologne to Dusseldorf 22m
InterRegio Geneva to Lucerne 3h 2m

Scenic trains

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?

Scenic trains Top routes Journey time
Bernina Express Tirano to Chur 3h 28m
Glacier Express St Moritz to Zermatt 6h 27m

 

First Class on trains in Europe

Travel in First Class and enjoy plenty of amenities on board European trains, from comfy seats with extra space to tasty complimentary nibbles and drinks. For example, if you want to travel around Italy in First Class, why not choose Frecciarossa Executive – you’ll get to enjoy extra-wide leather reclining armchairs, plenty of legroom and space between seats, free WiFi, dedicated at-seat catering service and free access to the First Class lounges FrecciaClub and FrecciaLounge at main train stations.

Sometimes First Class tickets can be even cheaper than Second Class fares so you’ll get to save money without having to give up comfort. Need more information about First Class trains in Europe? Tap one of our guides below or, if you’ve already made up your mind, simply use our Journey Planner and we’ll automatically show you if there are any cheap First Class tickets available.

Top train routes in Europe

Take a look at our video to see what it’s like to fly around Europe by train, then check out some of the most popular European train journeys below.

 

Route Fastest journey Train type Train company
London to Paris 2h 16m High-speed Eurostar
Paris to Amsterdam 3h 12m High-speed Thalys
Madrid to Barcelona 2h 30m High-speed Renfe
Madrid to Valencia 1h 40m High-speed Renfe
London to Edinburgh 4h 14m High-speed LNER
Barcelona to Valencia 3h 06m High-speed Renfe
Brussels to Paris 1h 22m High-speed Thalys
Rome to Florence 1h 12m High-speed Italo, Trenitalia
Rome to Milan 2h 56m High-speed Italo, Trenitalia
Lille to Paris 1h 1m High-speed TGV

 

Bikes on trains in Europe

In the UK

You can take your bike on all British trains free of charge, although the types of bikes allowed can vary. Fully folding bicycles are allowed on all trains without reservations or restrictions. Reservations are sometimes required for full-size bicycles on certain services, and there are also restrictions on Peak-time travel. Find out more about bikes on trains in the UK.

In mainland Europe

In Europe, you can travel with your bike on most trains free of charge, provided it’s semi-dismantled and kept in a special bag or case. On some trains, you’ll need to place your bike in a special bike compartment for which you’ll need to pay for a small fee.

 

Travelling around Europe by train

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 Rome, Florence 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 tagliatelle al ragù smothered in Parmigiano Reggiano – you’ll always eat well in Italy.

Find out more about trains in Italy.

Popular destinations

Main train stations

Main airport transfers

France 🇫🇷

Art / Cuisine / History / Cities

The elegance, gastronomy and cultural history of France are matched by few. 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.

Popular destinations

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Main airport transfers

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 the most – from the sweep of a flamenco dancer to the clink of cerveza glasses. Renfe trains can whisk you from the bustling Las Ramblas in Barcelona to some of the best restaurants in the world in San Sebastián 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.

Popular destinations

Main train stations

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.

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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 the Flemish tradition and Renaissance architecture in the historic port city of Antwerp, then wander around the Medieval streets and take in the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Ghent – Belgium’s best-kept secret.

Find out more about trains in Belgium.

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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 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. Make sure you also head to Scheveningen Beach in The Hague during the summer months to catch some rays. 

Find out more about trains in the Netherlands.

Popular destinations

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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 – it’s the financial capital of Switzerland and has a historic centre of great value.

Find out more about trains in Switzerland.

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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 possibilities. 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 hiking amongst the rolling hills and dramatic landscapes of Wales.

Find out more about trains in Britain.

Popular destinations

Main train stations

 Main airport transfers

Our travel tips for students, families and seniors

Depending on the country you're visiting, student, family and senior discounts can vary between different train companies, types of train and when you choose to travel. Here are some of the best deals to look out for:

Student/budget travellers

  • Youth Discount with Interrail: Get 25% off the price of an adult Global Pass if you’re under 27 years old. Available for First and Second Class passes
  • 16-25 Railcard: Save up to 1/3 off the price of eligible train tickets in the UK. Great for Teenagers, students, graduates, and young professionals
  • Super Sparpreis: Book in advance and get cheap train tickets for long-distance Deutsche Bahn services within Germany from €17.50 (fare excludes booking fee).

Family travellers

  • Trenitalia Bimbi Gratis: Get free train travel for children under 15, if they travel with a group of 2 to 5 adults with a valid Base ticket in First and Second class on most Trenitalia services
  • Renfe - Niño: Get 40% off train tickets for children aged 4-13. Get free travel for children under 4 if they’re travelling on an adult’s lap
  • Kids for a Quid: Some UK train operators allow up to 4 children aged 5-15 to travel for just £1 on a single or return journey when accompanied by an adult during Off-Peak times.

Senior travellers

  • Senior Discount with Interrail: Get 10% off the price of an adult Global Pass if you’re over 60 years old. Available for First and Second Class passes
  • Senior Discount with BritRail: Get 15% off the price of an adult BritRail Pass if you’re over 60 years old
  • Senior Railcard: Save up to 1/3 off the price of eligible train tickets in the UK if you’re aged 60+.

 

 

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.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Are trains in Europe safe?

Yes. Trains in Europe are perfectly safe, both in terms of engineering and crime rate. Most European stations are open 24 hours a day and are equipped with a video surveillance system or a local security team. If anything goes wrong, you'll usually find a police station and an information desk with English speaking staff to help you.

Are dogs allowed on trains in Europe?

Yes. The general rule is that small pets are allowed to travel on European trains for free if they’re in a carrier. Larger pets need to be muzzled and kept on a leash and usually travel for a reduced rate. Check out our guide to dogs on trains for more information about travelling with your dog in the UK.

How can I get cheap European train tickets?

The best way to save money when booking European trains is to buy your tickets in advance. Prices can be much higher on the day of travel, so be sure to plan well in advance to get the cheapest fares. We also recommend you avoid travelling during rush hours, as well as check if you can benefit from the wide range of discounts available for train travellers in Europe.

How early can you book train tickets in Europe?

European train tickets can go on sale from three to six months in advance, depending on the route and operator. If you want to snap up the cheapest fares, we recommend you book your ticket as soon as your travel plans are confirmed.

Where’s the biggest train station in Europe?

The biggest train station in Europe is Leipzig Hauptbahnhof in Germany. It has 19 overground platforms housed in six iron train sheds, a multi-level concourse with towering stone arches, and a 298 metres long facade.

How fast do high-speed trains go in Europe?

High-speed trains in Europe can reach speeds of up to 248 mph (400 km/h). They usually run direct routes to major European cities, taking you to your destination in no time.

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