Rail revival: The best new European train journeys to take in 2023

Switching planes for trains is one the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint.
Switching planes for trains is one the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint.   -   Copyright  Canva
By Euronews

As flight-free travel gains momentum, European train journeys are experiencing a renaissance.

Changing the way you travel is one the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint. According to Eurostar, flying from London to Paris emits 14 times more CO2 than travelling by train.

Luckily, countries across the EU are investing in railways that provide better - and faster - connections than ever before.

From budget-savvy night trains to cross-country tracks, here are all the latest European railway routes.

Austria

Vienna to Paris with Nightjet

Austrian national rail firm ÖBB has been trailblazing Europe’s sleeper train revival with NightJet since 2016. In late 2021, it launched a new route between Vienna and Paris via Salzburg and Munich.

The journey takes 14 hours and runs three times a week in both directions, with prices from around €30 for a seat to €120 and up for a private compartment.

In summer 2023, Nightjet will launch new-gen trains that rival first-class flights in comfort. Expect wireless charging stations, free wifi, bicycle and snow sports equipment storage and private compartments with their own showers and toilets.

Vienna to Genoa and La Spezia with Nightjet

Nightjet's new 2023 timetable saw its Vienna/Munich service to Milan extended to Genoa and La Spezia in Italy. From here, passengers can take trains to Monaco, Nice and Cinque Terre.

Belgium

Brussels to Berlin with European Sleeper (May 2023)

The long-teased European Sleeper, a Belgian-Dutch social cooperative, will launch its first route - from Brussels to Berlin via Amsterdam - on 25 May 2023.

With only one change, passengers will be able to travel on to Paris, London, Prague and Warsaw. From 2024, the plan is to extend the service to Dresden and Prague.

Czech Republic

Prague to Zurich with ČD

In December 2022, the Czech Republic’s national rail operator České dráhy (ČD) launched a new sleeper service linking Prague to Zurich, with stops at Frankfurt and Basel along the way.

The overnight journey, a revival of a service that closed down in 2017, will take slightly less than 14 hours. Travellers will have a number of different fare options, from six-bed couchettes to deluxe sleeper compartments with en-suite toilets and showers. 

Tickets for a berth in a six-bed couchette start from €49.90.

France

Paris to Berlin with TGV (2024)

France and Germany have announced a new TGV train route between Paris and Berlin that is due to start running in 2024. 

Currently, a trip between the two capital cities requires travellers to change at a separate station such as Cologne or Frankfurt. The new high-speed link would allow passengers to make the journey in around seven hours. 

Paris to Madrid with Trenitalia (late 2024)

In December 2022, FS Italiane Group - the owner of Italy's national state-owned railway Trenitalia - announced plans for a new high-speed Frecciarossa train connection between Paris and Madrid.

The new train will link Paris and Barcelona, where the existing high-speed service already runs to the Spanish capital. It is projected to launch in late 2024, with hints that further services could connect Madrid with Italy via France.

Germany

Berlin to Stockholm with Snälltåget

Swedish railway company Snälltåget has rerouted its Berlin to Malmö train service through Hamburg and Denmark, while extending it to Stockholm. The full journey takes just under 17 hours with prices for the direct service from around €50. 

Munich to Genoa and La Spezia with Nightjet

Nightjet's new 2023 timetable saw its Vienna/Munich service to Milan extended to Genoa and La Spezia in Italy. From here, onward travel to Monaco, Nice and Cinque Terre is possible.

Stuttgart to Zagreb and Rijeka with Nightjet and EuroNight

In its new 2023 timetable, NightJet extended its sleeper train service from Munich to Venice, Ljubljana and Zagreb to start in Stuttgart, Germany.

Seasonally, the route will also run to the coastal Croatian city of Rijeka, with a total journey time of around 15 hours.

The Nightjet to Venice travels via Munich, Salzburg and Treviso, while the service to the Croatian and Slovenian capitals is run by Croatian Railways HŽ and Slovenian Railways SŽ under ÖBB's EuroNight.

Italy

Genoa to Naples with NTV Italo

In late 2021, Italian high-speed rail company NTV Italo launched a Genoa service linking the previously poorly connected port city in Italy’s northwest to the south of the country.

The journey from Genoa to Naples takes just under seven hours and costs from around €80 return.

Milan to Paris with Frecciarossa

Also in late 2021, Frecciarossa - the high-speed arm of Italian national train operator Trenitalia - launched a swanky new train between Milan and Paris.

Faster and more luxurious than previous services on this route, the train takes just under seven hours. Tickets are as cheap as €29 - though splash out on an ‘executive’ fare to travel in a comfy armchair.

Portugal

Porto to Lisbon and Vigo with the Iberian high-speed rail network (construction starting in 2024)

Portugal has approved plans for a high-speed rail line between Lisbon, Porto and Vigo. It will be part of the wider Iberian high-speed rail network uniting the country and connecting it with Spain.

Currently it takes almost three hours to travel by train between Porto and Lisbon. The new rail link will slash the journey time to just 1 hour 15 minutes. Ultimately, the new line will connect the Portuguese cities with Vigo in Spain.

Netherlands

Amsterdam to Austria with TUI's Ski Express (December 2022)

Snow sport lovers are bracing for a new overnight train launching between Amsterdam and some of Austria’s biggest ski resorts.

TUI’s ‘Ski Express’ will depart from Amsterdam every Friday night between 23 December and 31 March. After leaving the Dutch capital at 5:30pm, the service will stop at Utrecht, then continue directly to Austria.

Amsterdam to Zurich with Nightjet

Austrian-led night train pioneer NightJet launched a route between Amsterdam and Zurich in late 2021. It leaves at 8.30pm and arrives at 8.05am.

Sleeping options range from couchettes (from around €60) to sleeper cabins (from around €120).

Spain

Madrid to Alicante and Valencia with Ouigo

In November 2022, SNCF-owned Ouigo launched a new high-speed route between Madrid and Valencia. It will soon also run to Alicante. Tickets will initially be priced at €9 one-way with one suitcase, but will cost around €30 after the launch period.

In 2023, Ouigo plans to extend its service to reach Cordoba, Seville, Malaga and the Costa del Sol.

Barcelona to Madrid with Iryo

Travelling between Spain’s capital and its top tourist city got faster and cheaper in November 2022 with this new high-speed rail service from Iryo.

Iryo - a consortium between Spanish airline Air Nostrum and Italian train company Trenitalia - runs 16 return trains daily between Barcelona and Madrid, taking as little as 2.5 hours each way and costing just €18.

Madrid to Marseille via Barcelona with Renfe (mid 2023)

Spain's state owned rail network is set to launch new high-speed AVE services to France in 2023. Trains are expected to initially run on alternate days but will later be ramped up to twice a day.

Barcelona to Lyon via Montpellier and Nimes with Renfe (mid 2023)

Renfe's plan to extend its train services into France includes another new route due to launch later this year between Barcelona and Lyon.

Further routes to Paris are expected by the end of the year.

Slovenia

Ljubljana to Budapest with Hungarian Railways

Launched in December 2021, the Hungarian Railways train from Ljubljana, Slovenia to Budapest, Hungary runs through Graz in Austria for a scenic ride. The journey takes 7.5 hours and trains depart at 5:05am and 9:35am, starting as low as €16 each way.

Sweden

Stockholm to Hamburg with SJ EuroNight

Launched in September 2022, the Stockholm Central to Hamburg-Altona night train is powered by renewable energy. It departs daily at 5.30pm and arrives at 6.30am, passing through Copenhagen along the way.

The cheapest option is a seat in a carriage (from €25). A bed in a shared compartment starts at €45, while a private compartment for two people with a sink starts at €165. Private compartments for one-to-three people come with their own shower, toilet and breakfast starting from around €205. Pet-friendly train compartments are also available.

Combined with existing Eurostar and Deutsche Bahn services, the service can also be used to travel from London to Stockholm in less than 24 hours.

Switzerland

Zurich to Rome with Nightjet (December 2022)

In a 2020 press conference, Nightjet announced it will launch a new night train between Zurich and Rome in winter 2022. It remains to be seen whether the plans will go ahead as scheduled. Currently, the operator’s only Rome routes include Vienna, Salzburg, Villach and Munich.

UK

London to Bordeaux with HS1 (2026, maybe)

The UK's High Speed 1 (HS1), which operates the Channel Tunnel railway line, is gearing up to launch a new route from London to Bordeaux. Currently, passengers must pass through Paris to reach the French wine region, with a journey time of almost six hours. The new line will bypass the capital and slash the travel time to around five hours.