Though Europe is famous for its well-connected, cross-border railways, trains have never been their first option, as it can be quite expensive, journeys can be long, and when you have between one and two weeks to explore the continent, flying is just more convenient.
Well, that might not be the case anymore.
Now that flying is becoming more expensive, and the cost of adding hold luggage is almost as expensive as buying a second ticket, travelers have begun looking for alternative, cheaper ways to country-hop without sacrificing too much of their precious time.
Lucky for them, European nations are now back to investing heavily in railways after decades of defunding and even shutting down service.
Next year, as many as three new exciting routes will be launching, making it easier for visitors to travel between five hugely popular cities while also saving on accommodation. Here’s all you need to know about the recent development:
Paris to Berlin
For the first time in nine years, the French and German capitals will once again be connected by a fast-speed, overnight service that will not require switching trains nor stopovers in intermediate stops.
Paris is the quintessential European city and a bucket list destination for many Americans taking trips across the pond, with its shimmery Eiffel Tower and Haussman-styled boulevards being the stuff of dreams.
Berlin is also incredibly popular among tourists, as the reinstated capital of Germany, and somewhere they go for both delving deeper into history and experiencing the riotous nightlife. Oddly, these iconic destinations had not been linked by overnight trains.
As part of Europe’s overall improvement and expansion of its sleeper network, however, tourists will be able to travel between Paris and Berlin much more easily, with a new service announced by NightJet, the sleeper branch of Austrian ÖBB.
The service is set to start before the end of 2023, departing from Paris’ Gare de l’Est (or Eastbound Station) at 7:12 PM and arriving in Berlin at 8:26 AM of the following day.
From Berlin, Paris-bound travelers should expect to depart at 8:18 PM, with the train calling at Gare de l’Est at 10:24 the morning after.
ÖBB has reported on X that the train will run three times weekly before increasing to daily service beginning in the fall. Tickets will start at €50, or around US$53 for a lie-flat in a ‘couchette’ cabin, the same prices as, or even cheaper than a FlixBus.
This is a significant improvement over the SNCF-Deutschebanh daytime service, with tickets costing as much as US$165 one-way, requiring a switch in Frankfurt, and carriages not being as modern.
Paris to Madrid
Though they are worlds apart in terms of culture, weather, gastronomy, and even the profile of travelers they normally attract, Paris and Madrid will be finally linked by an overnight train service.
Believe it or not, there’s currently no direct line operating between these cities, with commuters having to resort to flying – and as a result, paying exorbitant rates for adding luggage – traveling first via Barcelona, or enduring long, painful hours in a bus to complete their journey.
Italy’s Trenitalia expects to change those dire prospects, with their famous ‘red arrow’ trains, which already serve Paris, Lyon, Turin and Milan, now scheduled to run between the French and Spanish capitals.
Traveling at up to 400 kilometers an hour (249 mph), the ‘Frecciarossa’ is one of the best-reviewed train services in Europe, with 98% of passengers recommending the service according to a recent survey, commending the convenience and comfort of the train.
While the Frecciarossa does not have a dedicated overnight service, with competing Thello leading this market on the Paris-Milan route, Madrid-bound passengers will still be able to reduce their time traveling to just under seven hours, with tickets costing as cheap as US$30.
By the end of 2024, starting your morning eating churros in Madrid and going for an early afternoon stroll down Paris’ glitzy Champs Elysees, or vice versa, will no longer be an unfeasible dream if you’re a train lover.
Brussels to Prague
A rail start-up European Sleeper endeavor, the new Brussels-Prague service will cover the 560 miles separating the Belgian capital from the cultural heart of Czechia, with a launch date set for ‘sometime’ in 2024.
An extension of the Brussels-Berlin service, it will follow an unconventional route, traveling first through Flemish Belgium, with a stop in Antwerp, before crossing into the Netherlands, with stops in Rotterdam and Amsterdam, before proceeding towards Berlin and Dresden in Germany, and finally terminating in Prague.
As Brussels also boasts a Eurostar connection with London, this means travelers arriving first to the United Kingdom will have the opportunity to travel from the British Isles all the way to Central Europe by rail only.
Prices have not yet been announced, but holders of Interrail tickets have been informed they will be able to book seats on the European Sleeper routes, with reservations for the Brussels-Prague train already open.
It is set to run once per day once European Sleeper increases frequency for Brussels-Berlin.
Brussels is Belgium’s French-speaking capital, best known for its stately Grand Place, a medieval square flanked by opulent Baroque guildhalls, and for being the home of several European institutions.
Prague, on the other hand, can lay claim to being one of the best-preserved medieval cities still standing, with a beautiful cobbled Old Town, tall Gothic spires, and an imposing fortified castle.
Why Trains Are Better
Trains have proven a far more reliable and safer transportation mode than flights in recent months, following Europe’s last two summers of travel disruption.
More often than not, trains leave on time, you are not required to arrive at the station two hours in advance – or more – to undergo screening and ID checks, and you are generally allowed to bring all your luggage at no extra cost.
This can feel freeing to commuters, who routinely complain of strict baggage policies when flying inside Europe and how low-cost tickets have become increasingly more expensive.
Additionally, the total time required for commuting between the city center and the airport, passing through security, and then waiting for a flight that could potentially be delayed can be comparable to train journeys of five to six hours.
This means flying is not necessarily the most convenient or quickest way to get from point A to B.
Flying from Paris (Beauvais) to Milan (Bergamo), for instance, you will be required to take an airport shuttle that could take as many as two hours to reach the Departures Hall due to traffic, stand in line for excruciatingly long minutes as you await screening, and then proceed to boarding.
Landing in Bergamo, you should expect another long transfer.
Overnight trains in particular come in handy, as they essentially function like a hotel on wheels. You go to sleep in your point of departure, and wake up in a new country without having to spend extra money on accommodation, only your ticket.
Find more exciting train journeys to take in Europe next year here.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com