There’s nothing more relaxing than watching the world pass from the comforts of the night trains in Europe. The sound of revving engines, meeting new people from around the world, luxurious amenities and tasting some of the best in-house meals are some of the memorable takeaways you can expect if you travel Europe by sleeper trains.
European sleeper trains are highly regarded for their long routes, comfortable compartments and stylish cabins that make the journey enjoyable if you are travelling solo or with a group of friends or family.
The reason travellers love sleeper trains in Europe is that it is the sixth-largest continent in the world, which covers some of the most beautiful places on earth. It has one of the largest railway networks, spanning 44 nations and several major cities across different time zones.
If you’re up for an adventure or want to see how glamorous these popular transportation option in Europe can be, here is everything you need to know about travelling Europe by sleeper trains.
A look at some of the best sleeper trains in Europe
Run by Austrian Railways (ÖBB), Nightjets offer some of the most comfortable ways of travelling across the gorgeous cities in Europe. With its 12-hour overnight route connecting the Netherlands with Switzerland via Cologne and Frankfurt in Germany, the Nightjet sleeper service train takes its passengers through over 25 cities.
Travellers opting for ÖBB Nightjet can choose from three accommodations — Seating Carriage, Couchette and Sleeper Cabin. While those who wish to travel with other passengers, make new friends and have a gala time can choose the Seating Carriage, those looking to immerse themselves in a luxurious experience can choose the Sleeper Cabin. Additionally, budget-conscious passengers, who might want to journey solo, in groups or with family, can go for the Couchette.
Of the three, the Sleeper Cabin offers deluxe services to make your travel a leisurely experience. Its standard compartments come with a wash basin, while its luxury variant has a bathroom, which includes a shower, a wash basin and towels, among other amenities.
Moreover, the Sleeper Cabin offers accommodation through its three types of compartments — single, double and triple. While the single has enough room for one occupant, the double offers separate beds for two individuals and the triple accommodates three passengers in three separate beds. These cabins come with a menu, hot and cold beverages, as well as an à la carte breakfast.
The Couchette offers compartments with four and six berths, which include amenities like blankets, sheets and pillow for every berth, Viennese breakfast that includes tea/coffee, a roll, butter and jam, as well as a food menu listing other beverages and delectable snacks.
Finally, the most affordable way of travelling in an ÖBB Nightjet is by opting for a Seating Carriage that has six seats in a compartment, a common toilet in the coach and a menu for snacks and beverages.
While Nightjets do not have Wi-Fi connectivity, one can expect affordable fares. The price of a standard cabin with second-class seating carriage starts at around EUR 29.
Itinerary: Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Italy Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, France, Croatia and Sweden
Caledonian Sleeper offers sleeper train services between London and Scotland. It is one of the two main trains that runs six nights a week, covering a round trip from London Euston to Scotland.
The trains take you through two main routes – Highlander, which travels through popular Scottish destinations like Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William. While the Lowlander route takes you to Edinburgh and Glasgow.
As for its amenities and features, all the Guest Lounges have access to shower and en suite bathroom facilities, and it has an in-room washbasin and Wi-Fi access throughout the sleeper compartments. The train also offers a no excess baggage fee so that you can enjoy your journey without losing anything behind.
The seats are divided into four categories: Caledonian Double, Club Room, Classic Room and Comfort Seats. While passengers who like to sleep comfortably can take the Caledonian Double, since it offers a double bed with Glencraft mattresses, young people and students can opt for the Club Room, as it offers twin bunk beds with everything else that is in the Caledonian Double.
The Classic Room has the same features as Club Room, except for the En suite toilet, shower, and complimentary breakfast. As for the last one, Comfort Seats, passengers can expect single seats with footrest, a complimentary sleep kit, charging points and lockable storage compartments.
All the seats have free Wi-Fi access and individual light systems, so you can personalise your late-night travels without disturbing other passengers. Passengers can buy their tickets online, as well as from their nearby ticket stations.
The ticket prices range from EUR 65 to EUR 114 for the local journeys while per-seat charges for international travel can go up to EUR 474 or more, depending upon the route and the seat type.
Itinerary: England and Scotland
Trenhotel is a long-distance European night train service by Spanish rail network operator Renfe Group. It operates on international routes, covering cities across Spain and Portugal.
Offering world-class amenities and seating arrangements with separate rooms, compartments, toilets and private showers, the train goes through six different routes on the Trenhotel network. It covers cities in Spain’s northern and central cities before crossing Portugal and stopping at Porto and Lisbon.
It has super comfortable reclining seats with four sleeping carriages and double Grand Class suites. The Trenhotel comes with 136 seats that offer a personalised control area for reclining the backrest and footrest as well as an adjustable headrest.
Other features the seats include are a reading light, magazine rack, individual audio system, a baby changer, a personalised luggage rack with an anti-theft system and a pushbutton to call staff on-board
The large buffet car area on the train offers la carte dinners and breakfasts and can accommodate 10 tables that provide seating for 30 passengers. Each seating space is separated by a tempered glass screen, keeping in mind the privacy concerns of guests.
The train also offers an entertainment system with a 15-inch screen that allows passengers to listen to music and watch up to eight films, free of cost.
The train operates at a speed of 220 km/h and offers five national and two international routes, covering multiple cities at night.
Itinerary: Spain and Portugal
Intercités de Nuit
Every Francophile dreams of travelling to France via trains and local buses. And Intercités de Nuit makes this experience better. The train allows you to discover Paris, Toulouse, Latour de Carol, and all the way to the Briancon in the Alps, near the Italian border.
Intercités de Nuit is a local name for overnight trains operated by France’s national railway company, SNCF. You can take three major trains to travel around France like a local – TGV, TER and Intercities.
Intercités de Nuit offers three types of seats, reclining, a six-bed couchette and a four-bed sleeper couchette. The default seats make the sleeper compartments a comfortable experience through the first-class four-berth couchettes, second-class six-berth couchettes and reclining seats.
However, you can book the whole couchette compartment (four tickets in first class couchettes or six tickets in second class) for exclusively private use with upgraded benefits.
The average price for a reclining seat costs around EUR 9, while a six-bed couchette and four-bed sleeper couchette are priced at EUR 19 to EUR 25 and EUR 19 to EUR 25, respectively. However, seat prices can change according to the time, season and occupancy on the train.
As for its amenities, all the Intercités de Nuit trains come with standard air conditioning, luggage racks, power sockets and vending machines. Moreover, passengers can enquire about their trains via the tourist information centre; wherein one can change or upgrade their seats accordingly.
Santa Claus Express
Santa Claus Express would smite fans of double-decker trains. It is a 12-hour night train that runs through the capital of Finland and goes to the heart of snow-covered Finnish Lapland.
The trains offer one of the best views, including a chance to see the midnight sun or the northern lights (depending on when you travel).
It has all the necessities, including en-suite toilets, a restaurant carriage where passengers can purchase food and beverages, free Wi-Fi, air conditioning in every cabin and power outlets for charging electronics.
The train makes a stop at Rovaniemi, which is believed to be the home of the fictional character Santa Claus, and then goes on to Kemijärvi, its final destination.
The Santa Claus Express has five main seating systems — Seat, Double Sleeper, Sing Sleeper, Deluxe double sleeper with private bathroom, and Deluxe single sleeper with private bathroom.
To use the primary seat package, passengers have to pay EUR 10. The Double Sleeper and Single Sleeper cost EUR 40 and EUR 100. The two most expensive packages, Deluxe double sleeper with private bathroom and Deluxe single sleeper with private bathroom, costs around EUR 49 and EUR 119, respectively.
Itinerary: Helsinki and Rovaniemi
We have, of course, saved the best for last. The Orient Express is probably one of the oldest luxury trains running from Paris to Constantinople (Istanbul) since 1883. According to a report by CNBC, these luxury trains once fell into disrepair, and the company stopped its services in Europe.
Fortunately, the train is making a comeback in 2023, covering 15 itineraries across Italy, Paris, Istanbul etc. The company will release 6 of these luxury trains in 2023, covering the famous La Dolce Vita routes while intersecting 14 Italian regions and two different routes stretching beyond the border to Paris and Split in Croatia.
Offering haute cuisine with national and international chefs and bartenders onboard, passengers can enjoy fine dining with the highest standards of luxury and the best Italian wines sourced by renowned sommeliers. All this while a dedicated staff will be there to help you throughout your journey.
Exuding Italian elegance, the train’s design will primarily focus on celebrating ‘La Dolce Vita’, a historic time in Italy between the 1960s and 1970s, along with retaining the old-world charm of terracotta paint pops and tongue-and-groove ceilings. The standard packages within Italian itineraries will cover 1 to 3 nights, with a total occupancy of 62 passengers in 12 deluxe cabins and 18 suites, one restaurant and an honour suite.
The bookings for the seats will start soon in 2023 on the Orient Express website. The starting price of each seat/night is EUR 2,148, which can change according to the availability of seats and season. By 2024, the company will also offer a stay at the historic Orient Express-themed hotel in Rome.
Itinerary: Rome and Istanbul
(Hero and featured image credits: Belmont)