Travel by night
Everything you need to know about the revival of Europe's night trains
"It's not about the destination, it's the journey" - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Wake up to the benefits of night trains in Europe
Want to make the most of your next adventure? Try travelling by night trains - you can cover long distances by night and explore by day. After all, when daylight hours are short, your time is much better spent sightseeing or enjoying outdoor activities.
Even when it's cold outside, you'll be warm and cosy inside the train. You can curl up with a good book, meet new friends or stay under the covers as you watch the world go by. What's more, European night trains are making a comeback.
Here at Eurail, we believe that the journey is just as important as the destination, so we're delighted to tell you about some restored, new, and upcoming overnight routes.
PLEASE NOTE: the travel situation surrounding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic can change rapidly. Some of the overnight routes mentioned in this article may have changed or had their launches postponed since time of publication (10 December 2020). It is also particularly important to observe social distancing and wear a mouth mask on night trains. Always check the latest travel advice from your own local government, the relevant train carriers and the countries you wish to visit before proceeding with your travel plans.
Final countdown: Umeå – Gothenburg & Umeå – Stockholm
Ready to travel through Sweden while you sleep? Take advantage of these brand new routes from 13 December 2020.
SJ night trains currently operate from Narvik (Norway) in the north to Malmö in the south, and soon you can travel on the new service from Umeå to Gothenburg and Umeå to Stockholm.
Did you know that the train separates when it reaches Sundsvall? Stay in your allocated compartment to ensure that you don't wake up in the wrong city!
Good news: Pass holder reservations will be made available.
Coming soon: Innsbruck to Amsterdam & Vienna to Amsterdam
ÖBB will increase its impressive overnight portfolio soon, by including the routes: Innsbruck-Munich-Amsterdam and Vienna-Passau-Amsterdam.
Due to the current situation, the maiden voyage for these Nightjet connections, initially planned for December 2020, will be postponed until travel restrictions relax (most likely until February or March 2021).
Once Nightjet starts to operate on these new routes, you will arrive the next morning feeling refreshed and ready to explore the destination - right in the city centre.
Don't forget to grab a Pass holder reservation.
Destinations in the Nightjet network:
When everything is running smoothly, you can travel to over 25 European cities with Nightjet:
Austria: Vienna, Salzburg, Graz, Innsbruck
Germany: Hamburg, Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, Munich
Italy: Florence, Rome, Verona, Lake Garda, Milan, Venice, Bologna
Switzerland: Zurich, Basel
The Netherlands: Amsterdam (coming soon)
Back in action: Stockholm to Berlin
Always wanted to travel back in time? Well, here's your chance! Join the maiden voyage on 27 March 2021.
Snälltåget's new line from Stockholm to Berlin will be the first overnight service to operate between Sweden, Denmark and Germany since the 1990s (we told you night trains are making a comeback). En-route to Berlin, the train will stop in Stockholm, Malmö, Copenhagen and Hamburg.
What's more, you can enjoy a meal in restaurant Krogen ("The Pub") or snacks from the kiosk. You can also take advantage of free WiFi.
Guess what? Pass holder reservations will become available too.
Summer loving: Sylt to Salzburg route
Are you looking forward to summer 2021? Fancy a quick trip to Austria on the Alphen-Sylt Nachtexpress? Travel from the small island of Sylt in northern Germany (Schleswig-Holstein) to the home of The Sound of Music.
On its way to Salzburg, this train will stop in Hamburg, Frankfurt and Munich.
This twice-weekly pop-up summer service is taking a break for the winter, but we're optimistic that it will return in 2021. At the moment, RDC Germany night trains consist of 6-berth couchettes—fun fact: the couchettes are from the decommissioned CityNightLine trains.
Making a comeback: Warsaw to Vilnius
Back in the glory days, there used to be a direct overnight sleeper train between Warsaw (Poland) and Vilnius (Lithuania). Polish railways (PKP) sadly withdrew this service in 2005, and train enthusiasts (just like us) have waited a long time to see a comeback on this overnight route. Now our wait is almost over.
Fast forward to summer 2021! Why? As the Polish and Lithuanian railways (PKP and LTG) will start a daily connection in the second half of the year. On its way to Vilnius, the train will stop in Kaunas in Lithuania and Warsaw in Poland.
Returned to service: Amsterdam to Zurich
We hope you're as excited as we are to hear that the Austrian, Swiss and Dutch rail operators (ÖBB, SBB and NS, respectively) have joined forces to reinstate the overnight service between Amsterdam and Zurich.
This former and much-loved CityNightLine route was scrapped in 2016 (to the dismay of train enthusiasts everywhere - including us). Luckily, in part to the sustainable travel movement, European night trains are back in fashion.
Unfortunately, this year-round route won't start operating until December 2021. However, it will be just in time for next Christmas. On its way to Zurich, the train will stop at Cologne, Frankfurt and Basel.
Get ready to see the Light Festival in Amsterdam or snowboard in a Swiss winter wonderland.
Even more reasons to get excited about night trains:
Save travel days
You only use one travel day with your Pass on night trains (the day of departure). For example, if you travel on a night train from 4 to 5 January, you only record 4 January (more info below).
Make new friends
Travelling by night train is the perfect way to socialise and make new friends. You're not confined to your seat or compartment, and have the freedom to walk around the train.
We know you care about the planet (we do too) and travelling by train is the best way to reduce your ecological footprint. Lower your CO2 emissions by half compared to plane travel.
Stay connected while you travel
Keep your phone on for the whole trip! Make use of the free WiFi* or your own 4G/5G. Charge your phone, watch a movie, or connect with friends on Facebook.
*Some trains still need to install WiFi.
Room for your luggage
With train travel, you can bring as much luggage as you can carry, without paying extra. Although, space could be limited in couchettes and compartments with reclining seats.
Save precious time and money
On a budget? Night trains save you money and time. You can travel long distances while you sleep (and you'll be gifted extra time to explore) and dodge the expense of a hotel.
Arrive in the heart of the city
Many European stations are located in the heart of the city - so get ready to explore as soon as you arrive.
Top tip: store your luggage at the train station until your hotel check-in opens.
Bring your own food along for the ride
One of the best benefits of train travel is that you can bring your own food and beverages. Pack a romantic picnic and bottle of wine (don't forget the corkscrew). Breakfast is sometimes included.
Do I need a reservation?
Reservations are compulsory for all night trains (with or without a Pass) and they guarantee you a seat or bed on the train. Depending on the train, you can make reservations online, by phone, or sometimes at the train station.
Night train reservations are limited and often sell out quickly. Top tip: to avoid disappointment, book your reservation at least two months in advance.
How many travel days do I need to use?
When travelling on a night train with a Eurail or Interrail Pass, you only have to record the day of departure. For example, if you travel on a night train from 4 to 5 January, you only record 4 January in the Rail Planner app or on the paper Pass Cover (depending on how you decide to record your Journey Details).
On the day that your night train departs, you can take as many trains as you like - it's on the same day after all. Top tip: if you take another train once your night train has arrived, you will need to use a new travel day.
You need a Global Pass to book cross-border night trains, plus, the entire trip must take place within the validity period of your Pass.
What accommodation options are available?
Night trains have several accommodation options, ranging from reclining seats and couchettes to single compartments - some with private bathrooms. You naturally have to pay a higher reservation fee for the more luxurious options.
Reclining seats (on some night trains):
We can't pretend that this is the best option on night trains but you will save loads of money, meet new friends and have the most freedom to walk around the compartment (there's no turbulence on this trip). 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).
Light sleeper? Consider a couchette upgrade.
Think of a couchette as a hostel on wheels! Best shared with friends or family (so you don't have to bunk down with strangers), you will 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 will get a sheet, blanket, and pillow, and usually a tea/coffee and croissant for breakfast.
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 ensuite shower and toilet inside your cabin. Note that the beds (or berths) are sold separately - you need to book all of the beds to have your own private compartment. You will get a sheet, blanket, duvet and pillow, and breakfast is included.
Please note that the comfort and quality of the accommodation on night trains can vary.
Food on board
Some European night trains don't have a restaurant car, so we recommend that you have dinner before you board. You can also bring your own snacks or picnic along for the ride to enjoy as you watch the world go by.
Some last tips:
Don't be alarmed if the train conductor wants to keep hold of your passport for the night - friendly conductors take care of border controls while you sleep.
Night trains are as varied and charming as the countries in Europe.