Watch our video to see what it’s like to fly around Europe by train. We blended our most popular European train journeys into one Instagram-worthy trip, which you can take to experience the beautiful, the historical, and the jaw-dropping.
Flying may give you a bird’s-eye view, but to really get to know a country you need to see it from the ground. 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 window. Travelling by train is an unforgettable part of your trip and something you shouldn’t miss out on.
Our European trip – Five countries, four days
The adventure begins in Cologne, Germany, as the train heads south through the Rhine Valley and Black Forest. Scenic views of ripe vineyards and flowing rivers are yours for the taking here! Hop across the border and you’re in Swiss Alps territory, travelling the iconic Konstanz to Tirano route.
Next up, it’s Tirano, in northern Italy, down to Ventimiglia – via fashion capital Milan, of course. Then, a coast-hugging train ride through the South of France, to Nice – just the ticket for views of traditional French villages, winding all the way down to Marseille. And, for the final leg of the trip, it’s another border crossing into Spain. From Barcelona to Madrid there’s a real change in landscape – we’re talking mountains, plains and even deserts.
Europe is small when you travel by train. Within just a few hours, you can get from the Mediterranean seaside to cool mountain ranges or soft green hills. Whether you enjoy the hustle and bustle of a city or prefer to go on walks in the countryside, we've got you covered.
Cosy pubs / Hikes / Food and Theatre / Castles
When visiting the United Kingdom, you'll soon realise that each country is unique in its own right. However, even with their distinct cultures, there’s still an intrinsic bond which holds England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland together – lingering over a pint next to a crackling fire in a cosy pub, a dry sense of humour, walks across windswept beaches, grumbling over the famously damp weather, an intrigue into all things royal and newspaper-wrapped chips.
Beyond these clichés, the UK offers much to those who make the effort to visit its emerald shores. Go hiking along coastal pathways and dramatic moorland, delve into London’s thriving food and theatre scene, step back in time at one of the countries’ castles or stately homes, taste drams of single malt whiskey or explore the quickly modernising cities that still offer a fascinating glimpse into the past.
By riding the dense network of railway lines that criss-cross the islands, you can explore every nook and cranny of this green and pleasant land.
Find out more about trains in Britain.
Art / Cuisine / History / Cities
It’s hard to know where to start with Italy – 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.
Iconic cities like Rome, Florence, and Milan bring you face-to-face with the artworks of Europe’s Renaissance masters – the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo’s David, and da Vinci’s The Last Supper – while their streets are filled with pasta-making mamas, impeccably-styled fashionistas and espresso-fuelled locals.
Beyond the city walls, life slows down a notch or two so that the varied landscape that tumbles down from the icy reaches of the Alps to the azure ocean in the south can be fully appreciated. One thing is for sure – when you visit Italy, you will eat well. It’s easy to be tempted by thoughts of moving to Italia when you’re winding strands of tagliatelle al ragù smothered in Parmigiano-Reggiano around a fork. Maybe you should.
Find out more about trains in Italy.
Art / Cuisine / History / Cities
France sits at the crossroads between Northern and Southern Europe, and over its thousands of years of history, has absorbed the best of both.
Its elegance, gastronomy and cultural history are matched by few. Don’t take our word for it though, the numbers don’t lie. More than 75 million people descend on France each year, making it the most visited place on earth. Those who come are seduced by its café culture, iconic landmarks and indulgent cuisine.
Beyond the cobbled streets, Eiffel Tower, and the Champs-Élysées in old Paris lies a quiet, peaceful and varied land. The rocky windswept coastlines and rolling green pastoral lands to the north are a stark contrast to the sun-baked Mediterranean shores to the south and the snow-capped Alpine region to the east. Eating in France is a national pastime, and when you’re working your way through a bowl of coq au vin, tearing through a crispy confit de canard or eyeing up local produce at the local markets, you’ll see why. Of course, it’s unthinkable to do any of this without a glass or two of vin rouge.
Find out more about trains in France.
Beaches / Cuisine / History / Art
The sultry sun-soaked shores of Spain have long been a magnet for Northern Europeans who come to escape the dismal weather back home.
Away from the overdeveloped coastal tourist spots lies a passionate country whose distinctly diverse cultures are held together by a love of good food, family and a shared belief that life shouldn’t be taken too seriously. It’s the small things that will charm you most – the sweep of a flamenco dancer, the sound of an Andalusian classical guitar, the clink of cerveza glasses or a humble tapa. Spaniards need little excuse for a fiesta, so you’ll quickly be swept away by an impromptu midnight street party or lively annual event.
Signs of Spain’s extraordinary history can be found in the remnants left by Roman and Moorish rule. Expect ancient castles, amphitheatre ruins and exquisite examples of Islamic architecture. Outside the cities, you’ll discover why the landscape has inspired artists for so many years. The snow-capped Pyrenees give way to a land of forested valleys, secluded coves, long stretches of golden sand and lines of olive groves and vines.
Find out more about trains in Spain.
Cool / Tech / Culture / Countryside
Germany is the powerhouse and driving force behind Europe. Its cities may not be as pretty as its neighbours, and its cuisine is little understood outside the Fatherland, but it has arguably left the most indelible mark on the continent’s culture.
Remember, this was the country that gave us Albert Einstein, Karl Lagerfeld, Beethoven, Hans Zimmer and Karl Marx to name just a few. While one of the most exported traditions of German culture is Oktoberfest, there’s more beyond the clichés of lederhosen knee-slapping locals and frothy steins of (very good) beer at the annual Bavarian festivities.
Take Berlin for instance, Europe’s undeniable capital of cool. This gritty trend-setter is leading the way in youth culture, from tech start-ups, to urban artwork and 24/7 parties.
While other German cities have some cool catching to do, they have their own merits – fascinating museums, period architecture and unique gastronomy (yes, there’s more than just sausages and schnitzel). Don’t discount the often-undersold countryside which rivals any in Europe. Expect pristine rivers that wind around snow-capped Alpine mountains, stretches of vineyards, and past steep forested valleys dotted with the odd fairy tale castle on their way out to the German coastline.
Find out more about trains in Germany.
Wondering if you should buy a Eurail pass or how much luggage you can take aboard European trains? Read on to find answers to all your questions around train travel in Europe.
Trainline's mission is to help you save. For most trains across Europe, prices generally increase as the departure date approaches. 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.
Train tickets usually go on sale around 3 months before the date of travel. Book in advance to make sure to get the cheapest option as those tend to sell out, which leaves only the more expensive tickets.
Most train tickets across Europe tend to be more expensive during Monday to Friday commuting times (or "rush hours"), which are generally between 06:00-10:00, and between 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 some up a lower price.
Have a look out for deals and offers. When travelling with your family, you can benefit from group savings or discounted child fares. You can also save by choosing the least flexible option, i.e. booking a ticket for a specific date and time is usually cheaper than going for the flexible ticket.
Most European train operators offer standard prices as well as special offers. Discounted tickets are usually released in advance, with only a set number of tickets available at cheap prices. Once the cheapest ones sell out, the fares go up – often, those prices are defined in tiers, meaning that the next tier tickets are released once the lower prices are sold out.
For example, Deutsche Bahn Sparpreis tickets start at 19.90 Euros, with the next highest price being 29.90 Euros, then 39.90 Euros and so on. Most train companies calculate their prices based on the expected demand on the date and time of travel, the general popularity of the route and how busy trains are likely to be. The distance between starting point and destination also plays a part in the price calculation.
There are many different train companies with their own ticketing and pricing systems, so using a single platform that connects them all to book your train tickets is the best way to go. You can download the Trainline EU app on your smartphone and check train times and ticket prices on the go, or go to Trainline.eu to plan your journey.
Once you've decided where you'll go, you can find more information on the train company you'll be travelling with on our pages about trains in France, Italy, Germany and Spain. Also have a look at our FAQ if you've got any further questions. Have a question that's not listed in the FAQ? Our customer service team is happy to help you out, please choose one of the options from our support page.
Once you've got your tickets, there's no need to worry about taking the train in Europe for the first time - it's very straightforward and staff at stations and on trains are there to help you navigate European rail.
We generally advise that you to plan enough time to arrive at the station, find your platform and board the train. The same goes for journeys that require changes. When booking tickets for a non-direct train journey, we show you realistic options that give you enough time to change trains. Since most of the main train stations in Europe are very large, it might take up to 10 minutes to walk from a platform at one end of the station to another platform at the other end. Be sure to check out our stations pages for more details including locations, facilities, train times and maps of European train stations.
You'll find electronic departure boards in most stations' entrance halls, showing live train times and platform information. Changes in train times such as delays and platform changes will be shown on departure boards as well as announced, usually in the local language and English, via loudspeakers. Platforms are usually numbered continuously, starting with 1. Signage and station maps will lead the way. All the large European train stations are equipped with luggage storage facilities, toilets, shops and restaurants as well as ticket booking offices and information desks.
Once you’ve booked your tickets with us, use our app to make your trip even easier. In an instant, you can get your tickets on your phone – buh-bye paper tickets – and once you’ve downloaded them, you won’t even need WiFi to open and show them on your phone. If you’re travelling in France, you’ll see live times and platform info in a tap, to keep your trip on track. And, if there’s ever a change in your plans, you’ll have the power to cancel, book or change your tickets in the palm of your hand – it’s a piece of cake.
The beauty of Europe is its diversity – on a small continent, there are plenty of different cultures, customs and landscapes to discover. Europe's got the right city for every taste – London, Paris and Berlin for the cosmopolite, Amsterdam and Copenhagen for the relaxed traveler and Vienna, Hamburg and Zurich for the sustainability enthusiasts.
Stepping off at one of Paris’ central train stations for the first time is one of life’s great pleasures.
The sprawling urban heartbeat of France doesn’t fail to charm with its sophisticated tree-lined boulevards scented by the waft of local boulangeries, fashion-conscious Parisians sipping on coffee along the cobbled terraces, the lamp-lit banks of the winding River Seine and the soaring wrought-iron testament to the city’s illustrious past.
While Paris fiercely defends its traditions, the city hasn’t stood still. They sit side-by-side with a modern capital that’s embracing contemporary designer retail spaces, hip bars, state-of-the-art museums and a new wave of architecture that’s quickly building Paris’ shiny icons of the future.
Then there’s the food. There’s nothing quite as pleasing as delving into the city’s gastronomy, whether it’s eyeing up something sweet through the windows of a pâtisserie, gorging on fromage accompanied by a glass of cold rosé outside a sunny bistro or dining at one of the city’s Michelin-star restaurants. Audrey Hepburn once said, “Paris is always a good idea,” and there are few who disagree.
Almost 3,000 years have gone into the making of Italy’s capital Rome, and it shows. While at ground level, the network of chaotic narrow streets used by honking Fiats and nimble Vespas might seem disorganised, look down on it from above to see the winding Tiber River and the swaying stone pines and cypresses, and it couldn’t look anymore picture perfect.
Rome is a place to indulge in a spot of la dolce vita. Dress to impress (when in Rome, as they say) and head out into the balmy evening to sip on aperitivo in one of the pretty piazzas before diving into one of the local trattorias for a plate of the good stuff. It’s not all espressos, spaghetti cacio e pepe and gelato though. If you’re a first-timer, it’s unthinkable not to marvel at the Sistine Chapel, throw coins into the Trevi Fountain or wander through the Colosseum where you can almost hear the roars and claps of fans cheering on battling gladiators.
When you’ve finished with the big hitters, there’s a long list of museums, galleries and baroque architecture that will keep you coming back to the city time and again.
The Netherlands 🇳🇱
The Netherlands capital serves as one of the easiest places to reach by rail, and hopping off at its busy central train station brings you to the very heart of the city.
It’s one of the most bike friendly in the world, and you can never say you’ve really done Amsterdam unless you’ve seen it from two wheels. Cycling along the pretty canal-laden streets that criss-cross the core of the city is without a doubt the most pleasing way to take in the capital, particularly when punctuated with frequent stops to dive into little boutiques or quench your thirst with a glass of craft beer at one of the traditional bruine kroeg pubs.
It’s not all beer and bikes through. The city is home to some of the celebrated art galleries in the world. Be sure to clear some time in your schedule to ogle the art at the vast 19th century Rijksmuseum, discover the man behind the paintbrush at the Van Gogh Museum or delve in the works of the Dutch master at the Rembrandt House Museum.