5 reasons to travel Europe by night train
Do you love the romance of train travel in Europe, but struggle to fit multiple stops in your itinerary? Join the club putting long-haul travel back on the map with these best-kept travel secrets.
Get ready to hop on board Europe's overnight sleeper trains! It's the best way to see Europe in less time - travel by night, explore by day. Imagine boarding the night train in Bucharest in the evening, sleeping in a comfortable bed, and waking up in whole new culture in the morning.
What's more, you'll arrive feeling refreshed and ready for sightseeing. You can ride night trains on any budget, from reclining chairs to private sleeper cabins - offering a safe and unique way to travel in comfort for holidaymakers, city trippers, and business travellers alike.
You can travel on all the services mentioned in this post with your Global Pass; however, reservations on night trains are compulsory.
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1. Caledonian Sleeper
England | Scotland
After breaking out of the Tower of London, getting lost on the Tube (twice) and dodging pigeons in Trafalgar Square, get ready to board the Caledonian Sleeper to 'bonnie wee' Scotland. Wake up early to catch breathtaking views of the remote wilderness, dotted with majestic castles and pretty white stone cottages. Before you know it, it's time to disembark and immerse yourself in the magical highlights of Scotland.
Good to know:
You can travel from London to Edinburgh in 7.5 hours or London to Fort William in 13 hours. Lowland Sleeper services whisk you from London Euston station to Edinburgh and Glasgow. And the Highland Sleeper takes you further into the heart of the Highlands: Aberdeen, Inverness, or Fort William.
On a budget?
You have the option to purchase a reclining seat or a Classic room (breakfast not included). Don't worry, you get the same view and access to onboard Wi-Fi in the economy seats.
Fancy a touch of luxury?
When you book a Club & Caledonian Double room, you have access to room service, and your reservation includes a Highland breakfast, bacon roll or Eggs Royale. These rooms also come with a shower and toilet for your convenience. And you'll have access to the stylish restaurant.
Fun fact for rail buffs:
Until 2015, the sleepers were operated by Scotrail (National Express). Now, they're a standalone franchise operated by Serco.
2. ÖBB Nightjet
Austria | Belgium | France | Germany | Italy | Netherlands | Switzerland
Whether you're thirsty for the beer halls of Munich, hungry for Sachertorte in Vienna, or longing to see the 'living museum' of Florence, reach them all by ÖBB Nightjet. Get ready to travel your way on the most extensive night train network in Europe. You'll arrive well-rested in much-loved cities like Amsterdam, Berlin, Florence, Milan, Munich, Paris, Rome, or Vienna.
ÖBB Nightjet has sleeping options to suit every budget. Book a seat for a few euros or pay a little extra for a bed in a shared couchette.
Fancy a touch of luxury?
Book a standard sleeper with shared toilet facilities or a deluxe sleeper with an ensuite shower and WC. You'll get a light breakfast served in your compartment.
Info for budding trainspotters:
ÖBB, the Austrian national railway corporation, operates ÖBB Nightjet.
3. SJ Night Train
Sweden | Norway
Once you've boogied away to Dancing Queen at the Abba Museum in Stockholm, marvelled at the Royal Palace, and sampled a slice or two of smörgåstårta (yummy cake), make your way to the station to board the SJ Night Train. It's the best way to travel vast distances in Sweden, and you can reach major cities such as Gothenburg, Östersund, Luleå, Stockholm and Malmö. Connections are available to Are, Kiruna, Narvik (Norway) and Sundsvall on arrival.
You can choose various sleeping options, from seats for a few euros, 6-bed couchette cabins, or 1st class private cabins with a private WC and shower.
Solo traveller? Upgrade to 1st class:
Here's why: solo travellers on the SJ Night Train get the entire cabin to themselves when they book a 1st class cabin. What's more, you can collect your complimentary breakfast from the bistro IF your train arrives at your destination between 06:30 and 09:00.
All the SJ night trains (except the Stockholm-Malmö route) have a bistro offering hearty hot and cold meals, drinks, snacks and a full breakfast from 06.30 onwards.
Good to know:
You can take your skis on board in the winter season, but they must be in a bag. Plus, the best time to see the aurora borealis is from December to March, though it's rather shy! Sadly, there's no guarantee you'll see this dancing queen on your trip.
SJ Nattåg is made possible by the Swedish State railway (SJ).
4. Euronight Croatia
Switzerland | Austria | Germany | Slovenia | Croatia
Devour cheese fondue while you’re in Zurich (imagine dipping fresh bread into a pot of bubbling cheese), and don't forget to ferry across Lake Zurich or stroll along the promenade before heading to Zagreb on the Euronight Croatia. Get ready to discover dreamy islands and secluded beaches in Croatia; unspoiled lakes and forests in Austria, Slovenia, and Switzerland, or chug delicious German witbier in Munich.
Good to know:
EuroNight Croatia has a daily service from Zagreb to Munich and Zurich (passing through Slovenia and Austria on the way). In the summer, you can also travel to Rijeka and Split on the Croatian coast.
EuroNight Croatia offers reclining seats and shared couchettes to those travelling on a shoestring.
Want more privacy?
You can pay extra for a sleeper cabin if you don't like the idea of sharing with strangers (book the whole cabin if you wish to have total privacy).
For the train enthusiasts:
EuroNight Croatia is made possible by the collaboration between ÖBB, HZ, SBB, SZ, and ZSSK.
5. Bosphor Express
Romania | Bulgaria | Turkey
Once you've survived Dracula's castle in Transylvania, sink your teeth into cabbage rolls (Sarmale) and plum brandy (bloody delicious!). Then, after the excitement of chasing vampires, explore the city of Bucharest before boarding the Bosphur Express. Embrace the diversity of the Balkans on one of Europe's longest night train routes - it takes a whopping 19 hours to travel from Bucharest to Istanbul (plus, a free bus ride into the city).
Due to the length of the journey, you can book a bed in a couchette or a private cabin. You'll need to bring your own snacks and drinks for the entire trip, as there's no catering on board.
How to get your hands on a ticket:
For this service, you can only buy tickets from train stations in Bucharest (Romania), or Istanbul Halkali station (Turkey).
Good to keep in mind:
If you value sleep more than adventure, you may want to find alternative ways to travel between these destinations! You will be woken up by border controls that take place in the middle of the night, and you may need to disembark the train for a while (don’t say we didn’t warn you!).
Railfans read on:
Operated by TCDD, BDZ, and CFR, the Bosphor Express departs Bucharest North with just one direct carriage. The train 'collects' carriages and gets longer as it snakes its way to Istanbul-Halkali station.
The summer timetable isn't confirmed yet (and we can’t guarantee this service will resume in 2022 as international trains were suspended last year, due to Covid-19).
Book now and post cute selfies of you exploring Europe later
Essential info for travelling on night trains
Do I need a reservation?
Reservations for night trains are compulsory, as they guarantee you a seat or bed on the train. But, good news: all night trains featured in this post offer a discount to Global Pass holders. You can make reservations online, by phone or at the train station (depending on the train).
Remember that you'll pay a higher reservation fee for the more luxurious options onboard. Check out the reservation fees for night trains.
How many travel days do I need to use?
When travelling by night train, you only have to use one travel day (the day of departure). The departure date will automatically be visible on the mobile Pass once you add the journey to My Trip (you must write it manually on the paper Pass).
Keep in mind that if you want to keep travelling and take another train after the night train has arrived, you'll have to use a new travel day.
You need a Global Pass to book cross-border night trains, and the entire trip must take place within the validity period of your Pass. Book your reservation at least two months in advance to avoid disappointment.
Types of accommodation on night trains
Reclining seats (available on some night trains):
We can't pretend this is the most comfortable option on night trains, but you'll save loads of money, meet new friends and have freedom to walk around the compartment. Although the seat reclines, you will be sleeping in an upright position with a bunch of strangers (it's still more comfortable than air travel).
Think of a couchette as a hostel on wheels! Best shared with friends, new Interrailing buddies or family, you'll find yourself in a 6-berth compartment or a 4-berth compartment - it's worth paying more for this option. Couchettes transform from a seating area in the early evening to bunk beds at night. You'll get a sheet, blanket, pillow, and usually a tea/coffee and croissant for breakfast.
You naturally have to pay a higher reservation fee for the more luxurious options; however, sleeping compartments are the most comfortable way to travel. Depending on availability, you can book a 1, 2, or 3-bed compartment for your hotel on wheels. You can request a standard sleeper with a washbasin (you'll find the toilet and shower down the corridor) or a deluxe sleeper with an ensuite shower and toilet inside your cabin. Note that the beds (or berths) are sold separately - you need to book all the beds to have a private compartment. You'll get a sheet, blanket, duvet and pillow, and breakfast is included in the fare.
Strange but true:
Night trains are as varied and charming as the countries in Europe, so the comfort and quality of the accommodation can vary (even between carriages on the same train).
Buy now and explore Europe with new friends later
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