The best sleeper trains to whizz you through Europe, and the night.
Sleeper trains are a bit like love affairs. They come in all shapes and sizes, they can take you to many exciting places, bring you into contact with people from different backgrounds and they can rock your world. Sleeper trains are not for everyone, however. For some people, they feel downright dysfunctional and, for others, such as us, sleeper trains are like soulmates - where the love is, quite simply, unconditional.
Here are some of the sleeper train loves of our life:
Austrian night trains
Austria’s national rail operator, ÖBB, rates very highly when it comes to sleeper trains. Unlike some European countries, they treasure their recently revamped, midnight blue Nightjet trains that take you from dusk in one country to dawn in another, some of them not even stopping in Austria.
From the Austrian capital of Vienna, for example, you can sleep for a good eleven hours, all the way to the Polish capital of Warsaw on a night train. You can also have supper in Zurich and breakfast in Berlin. Germany and Italy are also happy bedfellows on Nightjets, with a wide array of night trains taking you between Munich and Milan, Florence, Venice or Rome. Starting 19 January 2020 is the service between Brussels and Vienna. Travel through the night between Vienna and the Belgian capital on Sundays and Wednesdays, leaving at at 20.38 and arriving 10.55 hrs. Or treat yourself to one of Europe's best hot chocolates in Brussels before taking the night train at 18.04, Mondays and Thursdays, which arrives in Vienna at 08.27. Good morning Vienna.
Sleeper trains starting their journey in Munich have frequent dalliances with other countries, however, with warm morning greetings to be had in Budapest, Hungary, or Zagreb, Croatia.
You can easily combine lots of Europe’s classic capitals after a last bier in Berlin too. Because from the German capital you can take a Nightjet sleeper train to Bratislava, Budapest or Vienna, All beautiful places to wake up and smell the coffee. Or you can wipe the sleep out of your eyes in Slovenia, taking a sleeper train from either Zurich or Munich to Ljubljana.
Sleeper trains between France and Italy
Thello night trains are the ones to seek out if you want to feel the love in both Paris and Venice. A daily service, read the train stops out loud and you will feel as if you are in the middle of a Shakespearean romance - Milano, Verona and Padua. With a final curtain call in Venice. Choose between four and six-berth couchettes to sleep in on this journey. NOTE: This service has been suspended until further notice due to post-COVID.
"The sleeper from Paris to Venice is a favourite of mine: from gliding through the outskirts of Paris during a Friday sunset with a book and a bottle of wine, to the final arrival over the sea causeway to the island of Venice. Conveniently timed. And so cheap." - Tim, Product manager
Spanish sleeper trains
Even the name of Spain’s sleeper trains, Trenhotel, conjures up a romantic sojourn. These trains travel both within Spain and into Portugal, offering overnight travel for people on all budgets. Even if you don’t pay for the most expensive Gran Class sleeping compartment, you will be rewarded with some spectacular places to wake up. Take the night train from Madrid to Lisbon, for example, for a great value way to enjoy two of Europe’s most exciting capital cities. Within Spain, Galicia is a wake-up call in itself, this wonderful, and underrated region accessible on the night train from Madrid to Ferrol or Madrid to Pontevedra.
French sleeper trains
France and its night trains have been going more than a difficult patch over the last few years, with many Intercités de Nuit services having been axed. There are still some remnants of the love affair that once was, however, such as the Paris to Briançon night train, popular with skiers heading to this alpine beauty spot. You can also leave Paris at 22 hrs and be in Toulouse at 06.00 hrs. There is a daily service during summer months between Paris and Catalonia, as well as on Friday and Sundays during the rest of the year. The route on this north to south-west journey is Paris to Portbou, stopping at Perpignan and Narbonne along the (daily in summer, Fridays and Sundays during winter months), . All wonderful places to rub the sand out of your eyes and feel it between your toes instead.
Scotland sleeper train
Our favourite UK sleeper train has to be the Caledonian Sleeper between London’s Euston station and Scotland. We only sell upright seats on this service, however, so you need to go directly to the operator to book beds. However, for a cheap seat with priceless views this is hard to beat, as you sip your Scotch from the bar and doze off. The views will depend on your chosen destination, however, as the Caledonian Sleeper splits three ways, taking travellers to Perth, Pitlochry, Aviemore and Inverness on one line, Dundee and Aberdeen on another as well as one to Fort William.
Read more about booking couchettes on sleeper trains.
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