Nadrid Atocha station

Madrid Atocha station

This page covers journeys starting in Madrid, Malaga, Granada, Cordoba, Seville, Alicante, Valencia

To buy train tickets in Spain, www.raileurope.com, www.thetrainline.com (in €, £ or $) or www.petrabax.com (US$) are much easier to use than www.renfe.com.

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     Madrid Atocha station information

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This page explains how to travel by train from Madrid, Malaga, Granada, Cordoba, Seville, Alicante, Valencia to other European cities, and how to buy tickets the cheapest way.  Information current for 2023

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Take a moment to read these tips for buying European train tickets.  It answers all the usual questions, "Do I need to book in advance or can I just buy at the station?", "Can I stop off?", "Are there Senior fares?" and that old favourite, "Should I buy an $800 railpass or just buy a €35 point-to-point ticket online?".  Click here to understand how far ahead you can buy train tickets.

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An introduction to European train travel

 

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Guide to Eurail passes (overseas visitors)

Important tips for buying European train tickets

Youth fares (under 26)

 

Guide to Interrail passes (for Europeans)

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Couchettes & sleepers on night trains

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Wheelchairs & special needs

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Taking a bike by train

 

Real-time service updates

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Taking a car by train

 

Hotels & accommodation

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Changing stations in Paris by metro or taxi

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Maps of the European rail network

 

What to do when things go wrong...


Buy train tickets for Spain See the train travel in Spain page
An AVE-S103 high-speed train at Madrid Atocha

An S103 AVE train as used between Barcelona & Madrid Atocha, seen at Madrid Atocha station..  Taking as little as 2h30, it's faster than flying.  See virtual tour

Turista class on a Spanish S103 AVE train   Preferente class on a Spanish S103 AVE train

Standard class (2nd class) on an AVE S103.

 

Comfort class (1st class)  seating.

Club class on a Spanish S103 AVE train   Madrid Atocha station - the tropical garden in the old trainshed

Comfort class (1st class) seating (formerly Club) on the AVE train.  A meal with wine is included on Mondays-Fridays.

 

Madrid Atocha station.  One of my favourite stations, the old trainshed has been preserved and turned into a tropical garden.  AVE trains arrive in the adjacent modern extension.  See the Madrid Atocha station guide.

Madrid to  Barcelona
Ferries to Ibiza & Mallorca
Ferries to Tenerife, Gran Canaria & the Canary islands

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Madrid to Gibraltar
Madrid-Algeciras train at Madrid Atocha

An Intercity train (formerly branded Altaria), about to leave Madrid Atocha for Algeciras.

Cafe-bar on Madrid-Algeciras train   Turista Plus seats on Madrid-Algeciras train

Cafe-bar, with bar stools.

 

Comfort class seats.

Turista seats on Madrid-Algeciras train   Algeciras station

Standard class seats.

 

Algeciras station, across the road from the bus station.

Bus M-120 for La Linea (Gibraltar's frontier) boarding at Algeciras bus station.   The Rock of Gribraltar, viewed from a taxi approaching La Linea

Bus M-120 boarding at Algeciras bus station

 

Rock of Gibraltar, seen from a taxi near La Linea.

Other Spanish cities to Gibraltar

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Spain to London

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Spain to Dublin & Ireland

Option 1, Spain to Dublin using a direct ferry from Spain to Ireland

2nd class seats on a Thalys train from Paris to Amsterdam   1st class (Comfort & Premium) seating on Thalys

Madrid to Bilbao by train. Courtesy of Pádraic Fogarty

 

Bilbao to Rosslare by ferry.  Courtesy of Pádraic Fogarty

Option 2, Spain to Dublin via Paris and ferry from Cherbourg to Dublin

Irish Ferries' WB Yeats

Sail from Cherbourg to Dublin aboard Irish Ferries' WB YeatsWB Yeats photos courtesy of Irish Ferries.

Irish Ferries' WB Yeats club cabin   Irish Ferries' WB Yeats deluxe cabin

Club cabin on the WB Yeats with shower & toilet.

 

Deluxe cabin on the WB Yeats with shower & toilet.

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Spain to Paris

Madrid to Paris by high-speed TGV

Option 1, Madrid to Paris in a day, early morning departure

Option 2, Madrid to Paris in a day, late morning departure

Option 3, Madrid to Paris with overnight stop in Barcelona

TGV Duplex at Paris Gare de Lyon

TGV Duplex at Paris Gare de Lyon. These 320 km/h double-deckers link Paris with Barcelona.  Watch TGV Duplex video.

TGV Duplex cafe-bar   TGV Duplex upper deck 2nd class seats

Cafe-bar on the upper deck in car 4, serving tea, coffee, soft drinks, wine, beer, snacks & microwave-style hot dishes.

 

2nd class seats on upper deck with a mix of tables for 4 & unidirectional seating.  360º photo.

First class on board a TGV Duplex   An TGV Duplex at Paris Est.

1st class upper deck seats, club duo on the left, a club quatre on the right.  360º photo.

 

A TGV Duplex.  The 1 near the door indicates 1st class, a 2 indicates 2nd class.

Lunch from the cafe-bar on the train to Barcelona   The hilltop cathedral at Beziers

Dinner from the cafe-bar.

 

View from the train, passing Béziers.

Mt Canigou in the Pyrenees

Mt Canigou & the Pyrenees.  One of the highest peaks in the mighty Pyrenees, the 2,784m (9,137 feet) high Mt Canigou dominates the skyline on the right all the way from Perpignan to Girona, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CanigouMore photos of what to see on the Paris-Barcelona train journey.

Option 4, Madrid to Paris with overnight stop in San Sebastian - a slower but cheaper route, San Sebastian makes a great stopover

Option 5:  Madrid-Paris using a French overnight train.

Malaga, Seville, Cordoba, Granada, Alicante, Valencia to Paris

Option 1, Spanish cities to Paris in a single day

Option 2, Spanish cities to Paris with overnight stop in Barcelona - breaks the trip up nicely, recommended

Option 3, Seville or Cordoba to Paris using a French overnight train.

Vigo, A Coruna & Santiago de Compostela to Paris

Option 1, Vigo, A Coruna, Santiago to Paris with overnight stop in San Sebastian.

Option 2, Vigo, A Coruna, Santiago to Paris with overnight stop in Barcelona

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Spain to Bordeaux

Option 1, Madrid to Bordeaux in a single day.  Lunch in San Sebastian?

Option 2, Madrid to Bordeaux with overnight stop in San Sebastian.  A morning to explore San Sebastian?

From Valencia. Alicante, Seville, Cordoba, Granada, Malaga you'd take a fast train to Madrid Atocha, transfer to Madrid Chamartin by suburban train, then travel Madrid to Bordeaux as above.  Check times at either www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com or renfe.com.

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Spain to Toulouse

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Spain to Lyon

Option 1, Madrid & Spain to Lyon in a single day

Option 2, Madrid & Spain to Lyon with overnight stop in Barcelona

Mt Canigou in the Pyrenees

Mt Canigou & the Pyrenees.  Seen from the train and one of the highest peaks in the mighty Pyrenees, the 2,784m (9,137 feet) high Mt Canigou dominates the skyline all the way from Girona to Perpignan.

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Spain to Avignon, Aix, Marseille, Cannes & Nice

Option 1, using the direct AVE from Madrid to Avignon, Aix & Marseille - fewest changes, recommended

Option 2, alternative departure - Madrid to Nice in one day

Mt Canigou in the Pyrenees

Mt Canigou & the Pyrenees.  Seen from the train and one of the highest peaks in the mighty Pyrenees, the 2,784m (9,137 feet) high Mt Canigou dominates the skyline all the way from Girona to Perpignan.

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Spain to Brussels from €68

Option 1, Madrid to Brussels in a day

Option 2, Madrid & Spain to Brussels with overnight stop in Barcelona

Option 3, Madrid & Spain to Brussels with overnight stop in Paris

TGV Duplex at Paris Gare de Lyon

Barcelona to Paris by TGV Duplex, a 320 km/h (199 mph) double-deck train.  Watch TGV Duplex video.

TGV Duplex cafe-bar   TGV Duplex upper deck 2nd class seats

Cafe-bar on the upper deck in car 4, serving tea, coffee, soft drinks, wine, beer, snacks & microwave-style hot dishes.

 

2nd class seats on upper deck with a mix of tables for 4 & unidirectional seating.  360º photo.

First class on board a TGV Duplex   An TGV Duplex at Paris Est.

1st class upper deck seats, club duo on the left, a club quatre on the right.  360º photo.

 

A TGV Duplex.  The 1 near the door indicates 1st class, a 2 indicates 2nd class.

Lunch from the cafe-bar on the train to Barcelona   The hilltop cathedral at Beziers

Dinner from the cafe-bar.

 

View from the train, passing Béziers.

Mt Canigou in the Pyrenees

Mt Canigou & the Pyrenees.  One of the highest peaks in the mighty Pyrenees, the 2,784m (9,137 feet) high Mt Canigou dominates the skyline on the right all the way from Perpignan to Girona, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CanigouMore photos of what to see on the Paris-Barcelona train journey.

A Thalys train from Amsterdam to Paris

Paris to Brussels by Thalys, seen here at Paris Nord.  See 360º photos inside a ThalysMore information about Thalys.

1st class (Comfort & Premium) seating on Thalys   2nd class seats on a Thalys train from Paris to Amsterdam

Comfort & Premium seats, 2+1 across the car.  Larger photo.

 

Standard seats, 2+2 across.  Larger photo.

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Spain to Amsterdam from €74

Option 1, Madrid to Amsterdam in a day

Option 2, Madrid & Spain to Amsterdam with overnight stop in Barcelona

Option 3, Madrid & Spain to Amsterdam with overnight stop in Paris

  • Day 1 from Madrid:  Take the 10:30 AVE-S103 high-speed train from Madrid Atocha arriving Barcelona Sants at 13:15, with fares from around €35.  By all means take an earlier train and have lunch in Barcelona.

    Day 1 from Alicante or Valencia:  Take a EuroMed train to Barcelona, leaving Alicante at 07:25 or Valencia Joaquin Sorolla at 09:15 arriving Barcelona Sants at 11:55.

    No same-day connection is possible from Malaga, Cordoba or Seville, so see other options.

  • Day 1, travel from Barcelona to Paris by TGV Duplex leaving Barcelona Sants at 14:32, arriving Paris Gare de Lyon at 21:18.

    This impressive 320 km/h (199 mph) double-deck TGV Duplex has a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi, book an upper deck seat for the best views, any seat number >60 is upper deck.

    You'll get great views of the imposing 2,784m Mt Canigou as the train rounds the southern end of the Pyrenees, you'll pass the historic Fort de Salses right by the tracks just after Perpignan, flamingos on the lakes in the South of France between Narbonne & Montpelier, and Béziers cathedral, see the photos, tips & journey information here.

    Fares start at €39 in 2nd class or €59 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

  • Buy tickets at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com, you can then buy all your tickets together in one place, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem.

    First book from any Spanish city to Paris, add to basket, then book from Paris to Amsterdam for the following day and add that to your basket, then check out.  You print your own tickets.  Booking for the TGV & Thalys usually opens up to 4 months ahead, but only 60 days ahead for Spanish trains.  There's a small booking fee.

    Alternatively, you can book each train separately, although it's more effort and unlikely to make it materially cheaper, but no booking fee:  Book the Spanish trains with Renfe at www.renfe.com, but see advice on using it here. Book from Barcelona to Paris at the French Railways website www.sncf-connect.com, then also book the Thalys at www.sncf-connect.com.

TGV Duplex at Paris Gare de Lyon

Barcelona to Paris by TGV Duplex, a 320 km/h (199 mph) double-deck train.  Watch TGV Duplex video.

TGV Duplex cafe-bar   TGV Duplex upper deck 2nd class seats

Cafe-bar on the upper deck in car 4, serving tea, coffee, soft drinks, wine, beer, snacks & microwave-style hot dishes..

 

2nd class seats on upper deck with a mix of tables for 4 & unidirectional seating.  360º photo.

First class on board a TGV Duplex   An TGV Duplex at Paris Est.

1st class upper deck seats, club duo on the left, a club quatre on the right.  360º photo.

 

A TGV Duplex.  The 1 near the door indicates 1st class, a 2 indicates 2nd class.

Lunch from the cafe-bar on the train to Barcelona   The hilltop cathedral at Beziers

Dinner from the cafe-bar.

 

View from the train, passing Béziers.

Mt Canigou in the Pyrenees

Mt Canigou & the Pyrenees.  One of the highest peaks in the mighty Pyrenees, the 2,784m (9,137 feet) high Mt Canigou dominates the skyline on the right all the way from Perpignan to Girona, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CanigouMore photos of what to see on the Paris-Barcelona train journey.

A Thalys train from Amsterdam to Paris

Paris to Amsterdam by Thalys, seen here at Paris Nord.  See 360º photos inside a ThalysMore information about Thalys.

1st class (Comfort & Premium) seating on Thalys   2nd class seats on a Thalys train from Paris to Amsterdam

Comfort & Premium seats, 2+1 across the car.  Larger photo.

 

Standard seats, 2+2 across.  Larger photo.

Crossing the Moerdijk Bridge over the Hollands Diep

The Thalys sweeps across the Moerdijk Bridge over the Hollands Diep one lazy evening, between Rotterdam & Antwerp.

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Spain to Luxembourg

Option 1, Madrid to Luxembourg in a single day

  • Step 2, travel from Barcelona to Paris by TGV Duplex leaving Barcelona Sants at 10:33 and arriving Paris Gare de Lyon at 17:18.

    This impressive 320 km/h (199 mph) double-deck TGV Duplex has a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi, book an upper deck seat for the best views, any seat number >60 is upper deck.

    You'll get great views of the imposing 2,784m Mt Canigou as the train rounds the southern end of the Pyrenees, you'll pass the historic Fort de Salses right by the tracks just after Perpignan, flamingos on the lakes in the South of France between Narbonne & Montpelier, and Béziers cathedral, see the photos, tips & journey information here.

    Fares start at €39 in 2nd class or €59 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

    Allow at least 60 minutes to change trains & stations in Paris from the Gare de Lyon to the Gare de l'Est.

  • Step 3, travel from Paris to Luxembourg by TGV, leaving Paris Gare de l'Est at 18:40 Sat & Sun arriving Luxembourg 20:52 or 19:40 Mon-Fri, arriving Luxembourg 21:52.  The TGV has a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.

    Fares start at €25 in 2nd class or €45 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

  • Buy tickets at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com, you can then buy all your tickets together in one place, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem.

    Try booking from Madrid or Valencia to Luxembourg as one transaction, if you have any problems, book each train separately, adding each to your basket and checking out at the end.  You print your own tickets.  Booking for the TGVs opens up to 4 months ahead, but only 60 days ahead for Spanish trains.  There's a small booking fee.

    Tip:  If booking the whole trip in one go at Raileurope, I recommend clicking More options, entering Paris (any station) as a via station, with a stopover duration of 1 hour.  This ensures a robust connection, by default the SNCF ticketing system allows cross-Paris connections as short as 40 minutes, which I consider far too tight for comfort.

    Alternatively, you can book each train separately, although it's more effort and unlikely to make it materially cheaper, but no booking fee:  Book the Spanish trains with Renfe at www.renfe.com, but see advice on using it here. Book from Barcelona to Paris at the French Railways website www.sncf-connect.com, then book Paris to Luxembourg at www.sncf-connect.com.

Option 2, Madrid & Spain to Luxembourg with overnight stop in Barcelona

  • Step 1, travel from Spanish cities to Barcelona in the afternoon or early evening:

    Travel from Malaga to Barcelona by AVE-S112 high-speed train leaving Malaga Maria Zambrano at 16:44, arriving Barcelona Sants at 23:00.  Fares start at around €46.

    Travel from Seville or Cordoba to Barcelona by AVE-S112 high-speed train leaving Seville Santa Justa at 16:07 or Cordoba at 16:52, arriving Barcelona Sants at 21:50.  Fares start at around €46.

    Travel from Granada to Barcelona by AVE-S112 high-speed train, leaving Granada at 16:18 and arriving Barcelona Sants at 23:00.

    Travel from Alicante or Valencia to Barcelona by EuroMed train, leaving Alicante at 16:10 or Valencia Joaquin Sorolla at 19:07, arriving Barcelona Sants at 21:05.  Fares start at around €30.  By all means take an earlier train for more of an evening in Barcelona.

    Travel from Madrid Atocha to Barcelona Sants in 2h30 by AVE S-103 high-speed train on any departure you like, or take a competing Iryo, lo-cost Avlo or lo-cost Ouigo train, see the Madrid to Barcelona by train page.  You can leave early evening, but trains leave almost every hour so by all means travel earlier and have a pleasant evening in Barcelona.  Fares start at around €35 by AVE or from just €7 by Avlo.  AVE trains have a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  Lo-cost Avlo & Ouigo trains are one-class, no catering, free WiFi.

    Buy tickets for any of these trains at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com (both easy to use, in €, £ or $, small booking fee, overseas cards n o problem) or at the Spanish Railways website www.renfe.com (in €, significantly more fiddly, may reject some overseas credit cards, see advice on using it).  Spanish trains normally open for booking 60 days ahead, but this varies.  You print your own tickets.

Option 3, Madrid & Spain to Luxembourg with overnight stop in Paris

  • Step 1 from Madrid:  Take the 10:30 AVE-S103 high-speed train from Madrid Atocha arriving Barcelona Sants at 13:15, with fares from around €35.  By all means take an earlier train and have lunch in Barcelona.

    Step 1 from Alicante or Valencia:  Take a EuroMed train to Barcelona, leaving Alicante at 07:25 or Valencia Joaquin Sorolla at 09:15 arriving Barcelona Sants at 11:55.

    No same-day connection is possible from Malaga, Cordoba or Seville, so see other options.

  • Buy tickets at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com, you can then buy all your tickets together in one place, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem.

    First book from any Spanish city to Paris, add to basket, then book from Paris to Luxembourg for the following day and add that to your basket, then check out.  You print your own tickets.  Booking for the TGVs opens up to 4 months ahead, but only 60 days ahead for Spanish trains.  There's a small booking fee.

    Alternatively, you can book each train separately, although it's more effort and unlikely to make it materially cheaper, but no booking fee:  Book the Spanish trains with Renfe at www.renfe.com, but see advice on using it here.  Book from Barcelona to Paris at the French Railways website www.sncf-connect.com, then also book Paris-Luxembourg at www.sncf-connect.com.

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Spain to Geneva, Zurich & Switzerland from €59

Option 1, Madrid & Spain to Switzerland in a single day

  • Step 1 from Madrid:  Take the 10:30 AVE-S103 high-speed train from Madrid Atocha arriving Barcelona Sants at 13:15, with fares from around €35.  By all means take an earlier train and have lunch in Barcelona.

    Step 1 from Alicante or Valencia:  Take a EuroMed train to Barcelona, leaving Alicante at 07:25 or Valencia Joaquin Sorolla at 09:15 arriving Barcelona Sants at 11:55.

    No same-day connection is possible from Malaga, Cordoba or Seville.

    Buy tickets for these trains at www.thetrainline.com (easy to use, in €, £ or $, small booking fee, overseas cards no problem) or at the Spanish Railways website www.renfe.com (in €, significantly more fiddly, may reject some overseas credit cards, see advice on using it).  Spanish trains normally open for booking 60 days ahead, but this varies.  You print your own tickets.

  • Step 2, travel from Barcelona to Geneva, leaving Barcelona Sants at 14:32, change at Narbonne & Lyon Part Dieu arriving Geneva 22:34.

    You travel from Barcelona to Narbonne by impressive 320 km/h (199 mph) double-deck TGV Duplex with cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  You'll get great views of the imposing 2,784m Mt Canigou as the train rounds the southern end of the Pyrenees, you'll pass the historic Fort de Salses right by the tracks just after Perpignan, see the photos, tips & information here.  You then travel from Narbonne to Lyon on another TGV also with cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi, and from Lyon to Geneva along the Rhône by TER regional train.

    For other destinations in Switzerland you'll need to stay overnight in Geneva and continue next day.

    Fares from Barcelona to Lyon start at around €39 in 2nd class or €59 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

    Lyon to Geneva costs a fixed-price €31.90 in 2nd class, €42.40 in 1st class.

    Book from Barcelona to Geneva at www.thetrainline.com (easy to use, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee).  Then add an onward ticket from Geneva to anywhere in Switzerland also at www.thetrainline.com.  If you buy the Swiss ticket in advance (but less than 60 days ahead) you may find Swiss Supersaver fares or a Saver Day Pass available, saving up to 50% off regular Swiss rail fares.

    Alternatively, book  Barcelona-Geneva at the French Railways website www.sncf-connect.com (in €, no booking fee) then onward Swiss tickets at the Swiss Railways website www.sbb.ch.

Option 2, Madrid & Spain to Switzerland with overnight stop in Barcelona

  • Step 2, travel from Barcelona to Lyon by AVE high-speed train, leaving Barcelona Sants at 08:22 and arriving Lyon Part Dieu at 13:20.

    This train starts running on 28 July 2023, initially only on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays, but daily all year from 1 September 2023.

    This comfortable Spanish high-speed train has a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  Look out for great views of the imposing 2,784m Mt Canigou on the left as the train rounds the southern end of the Pyrenees, you'll pass the historic Fort de Salses on the left by the tracks just after Perpignan, flamingos on the lakes in the South of France between Narbonne & Montpelier, and Béziers cathedral on the left, see the photos, tips & journey information here.

    Fares start at €39 in 2nd class or €49 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

    Book this train at www.thetrainline.com (easy to use, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee) or the Spanish Railways website www.renfe.com (in €, significantly more fiddly, see advice on using it).  Booking normally opens 4 months ahead.  You print your own ticket.

  • Step 3, travel from Lyon to Geneva by TER regional train, leaving Lyon Part Dieu at 14:38 and arriving Geneva at 16:35.

    These TER trains use former inter-city carriages, old but comfortable.  There's no catering, so bring your own food & drink.  It's a lovely journey along the river Rhône and through the Jura.

    Lyon to Geneva costs a fixed-price €31.90 in 2nd class, €42.40 in 1st class.

    Book this train at www.thetrainline.com (easy to use, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee) or at the French Railways website www.sncf-connect.com (in €, no booking fee).  Booking normally opens 4 months ahead.  You print your own ticket.

  • Step 4, take onwards trains from Geneva to anywhere in Switzerland.

    Check times and buy tickets at either www.thetrainline.com (easy to use, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee) or the Swiss Railways site www.sbb.ch.

Mt Canigou in the Pyrenees

Mt Canigou & the Pyrenees.  One of the highest peaks in the mighty Pyrenees, the 2,784m (9,137 feet) high Mt Canigou dominates the skyline on the right all the way from Girona to Perpignan, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canigou.

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Spain to Milan, Venice, Rome & Italy

Option 1, Spain to Italy with an overnight stop in Lyon - from the Pyrenees to the Alps

  • Day 1 from Madrid:  Travel from Madrid to Barcelona by AVE-S103 high-speed train, leaving Madrid Atocha at 10:30 and arriving Barcelona Sants at 13:15.  Fares start at around €35.  By all means take an earlier train and have lunch in Barcelona.

    Day 1 from Alicante or Valencia:  Travel from Alicante or Valencia to Barcelona by EuroMed train, leaving Alicante at 07:25 or Valencia Joaquin Sorolla at 09:15 arriving Barcelona Sants at 11:55.  Fares start at around €35.

    No same-day connection is possible from Malaga, Cordoba or Seville.

    Book this at either www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com (both easy to use, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee) or the Spanish Railways website www.renfe.com (in €, significantly more fiddly).  You print your own ticket.

  • Day 1, travel from Barcelona to Lyon, leaving Barcelona Sants at 14:32, change at Narbonne, arriving Lyon Part Dieu at 19:48.

    You travel from Barcelona to Narbonne by impressive 320 km/h (199 mph) double-deck TGV Duplex with cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi, then on another TGV from Narbonne to Lyon, also with with cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.

    You'll get great views of the imposing 2,784m Mt Canigou as the train rounds the southern end of the Pyrenees, you'll pass the historic Fort de Salses right by the tracks just after Perpignan, flamingos on the lakes in the South of France between Narbonne & Montpelier, and Béziers cathedral, see the photos, tips & information here.

    Fares start at €39 in 2nd class or €59 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

    Book this at either www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com (both sites easy to use, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee) or the French Railways website www.sncf-connect.com (in €, no booking fee).  You print your own ticket.

  • Stay overnight in Lyon, The Ibis Budget Lyon Centre - Gare Part Dieu is affordable & right next to Lyon Part Dieu station with good reviews, the Radisson Blu Hotel, Lyon also gets great reviews and is just a few minutes walk away.

  • Day 2, travel from Lyon to Turin & Milan by Frecciarossa, leaving Lyon Part Dieu 09:30 & arriving Turin Porta Susa 13:18 & Milan Centrale 14:07.

    This is a lovely ride at low speed snaking through the Alps, see the photos & information here.  The train has a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi, sit back and enjoy the ride.

    Fares start at €29 in standard (2nd class) or €36 in business (1st class) or €165 in executive class.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

    Book from Lyon to anywhere in Italy at either www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com (both sites easy to use, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee) or the Italian Railways website www.trenitalia.com (in €, no booking fee).  You print your own ticket.

  • Day 2, travel from Milan to Verona, Venice, Florence, Rome or Naples by connecting high-speed train.

    Fares from Milan to Venice or Florence start at €19.90 in 2nd class or €29.90 in 1st class.  Milan to Rome or Naples starts at €29.90 in 2nd class or €39.90 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

    Book this as a single transaction from Lyon to anywhere in Italy.

Option 2, Madrid & Spain to Italy with overnight stops in Barcelona & Milan

  • Day 2, travel from Barcelona to Lyon by AVE high-speed train, leaving Barcelona Sants at 08:22 and arriving Lyon Part Dieu at 13:20.

    This train starts running on 28 July 2023, initially only on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays, but daily all year from 1 September 2023.

    This comfortable Spanish high-speed train has a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  Look out for great views of the imposing 2,784m Mt Canigou on the left as the train rounds the southern end of the Pyrenees, you'll pass the historic Fort de Salses on the left by the tracks just after Perpignan, flamingos on the lakes in the South of France between Narbonne & Montpelier, and Béziers cathedral on the left, see the photos, tips & journey information here.

    Fares start at €39 in 2nd class or €49 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

    Book this train at www.thetrainline.com (easy to use, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee) or the Spanish Railways website www.renfe.com (in €, significantly more fiddly, see advice on using it).  Booking normally opens 4 months ahead.  You print your own ticket.

    You've time for lunch in Lyon, see suggested brasserie near the station.

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Spain to Lisbon & Portugal

Option 1, Madrid to Lisbon in a day, the leisurely direct way

  • You can travel from Madrid to Lisbon by daytime trains with 2 changes, see the Madrid to Lisbon page for details.

    It's cheap, comfortable, scenic, although not fast.  A leisurely ride across Extremadura, look out for the beautiful tiling on some of the rural Portuguese stations. 

    Consider the more round-about journey via Vigo & Porto shown in option 2 below.  As each new section of the Madrid-Galicia high-speed line opens the Madrid-Vigo part of the journey gets faster & faster.  With the attractions of Porto as an overnight stop then Portugal's premier rail route from Porto to Lisbon next day, you may prefer that option.

  • Sleeper train discontinued:  The Lusitania Trenhotel was suspended in March 2020 due to Covid-19.  Renfe did not want to reinstate it, and it has now been permanently discontinued.  A direct fast daytime train may start in 2024 when new lines are completed in both Spain & Portugal, but until the only link between Madrid & Lisbon is a 3-train combo by day, see the Madrid to Lisbon page for details.

Scenery between Badajoz and Madrid

Wonderful arid scenery on the Spanish plateau between Madrid & Badajoz.  Photo courtesy of DiscoverByRail.com.

Madrid to Lisbon by train: Changing trains at Badajoz

Changing trains at Badajoz station.  The express from Madrid to Badajoz is on the left, the single-coach Allan Railcar from Badajoz to Entroncamento is on the right..  Photo courtesy of Giles Baker.

Option 2, Madrid to Lisbon with overnight stop in Porto - a roundabout route, but with high-speed trains & a great stopover

  • Day 1, travel from Vigo to Porto by regional express train, leaving Vigo Guixar at 19:56 and arriving Porto Campanhã at 21:18.

    The fare is €14.95, 2nd class only, buy a ticket at the station or at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com.

  • Stay overnight in Porto...  The Poviera Hotel is a small and very inexpensive hotel with good reviews directly opposite Campanhã station.  The Oca Oriental Porto Hotel is also inexpensive, gets great reviews, a stone's throw from Campanhã station.  If you'd rather stay in the old town, top choice is the InterContinental Hotel, a 5-star converted monastery-cum-palace a stone's throw from the beautiful Sao Bento railway station. Or try the cheaper PortoBay Teatro Hotel.

  • Day 2, travel from Porto Campanhã to Lisbon Santa Apolonia on any train you like, the first train gets to Lisbon around 09:30.

    The journey takes as little as 2h58, by 200 km/h tilting Alfa Pendular or comfortable 160 km/h Intercity.  There are regular departures through the day, spend some time in Porto before taking a train south!

    Fares from €15 if you book ahead at www.cp.pt or Omio.comSee the Porto to Lisbon by train page for more information.

Alvia train

Day 1, travel from Madrid to Vigo by Alvia train.  Nick-named patito or little duck, for obvious reasons!

Turista Plus seats on an Alvia train   Alvia train at Madrid Chamartin

Comfort class seats on an Alvia train.

 

Alvia train at Madrid Chamartin.

 

Day 1, travel from Vigo to Porto by regional express train.  Photos courtesy of Martin Hill.

Alfa Pendular train from Lisbon to Porto

Day 2, travel from Porto to Lisbon by Alfa Pendular.  Photo courtesy of Matt from www.youtube.com/c/nonstopeurotrip.

1st class on an Alfa Pendular

1st class on an Alfa Pendular train.  Photo courtesy of @rexybexy

Option 3, Malaga, Granada, Cordoba or Seville to Lisbon

  • Step 1, travel from Malaga Maria Zambrano, Granada or Cordoba to Seville Santa Justa by train.  Check times & buy a ticket at www.raileurope.com, www.thetrainline.com or www.renfe.com.

  • Step 2, travel from Seville to Faro by bus, journey time 2h30 to 3h15, with a departure roughly every 2-3 hours.

    Several bus companies run on this route including Also, Damas, EuroLines and Iberobus.  Buses typically leave Seville at 08:30, 09:30, 11:30 & 16:00, but it varies so check online at Omio.com.  If you're starting in Malaga, look for buses that start from Seville Santa Justa station, so it's an easy same-station train-bus interchange.

    The fare is around €17-€21 each way.

    Check times and buy tickets for all these companies at Omio.com and print your own ticket.

  • Step 3, travel from Faro to Lisbon Oriente by train, various departures through the day, journey time 3h05-3h41.

    Fares start at €15 if you book ahead.

    Check times and buy a ticket at the Portuguese Railways website www.cp.pt (in €) or at Omio.com (in €, £ or $).  You print your own ticket. 

    I'd allow at least 1 hour between bus and train in Faro.

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Spain to Porto

Madrid to Porto

Option 1, Madrid to Porto using a Madrid-Vigo high-speed train - the comfortable daytime train option

  • Step 2, travel from Vigo to Porto by regional express train, leaving Vigo Guixar at 19:56 and arriving Porto Campanhã at 21:18.

    The fare is €14.95, 2nd class only, buy a ticket at the station or at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com.

Alvia train

An Alvia train.  It's nick-named patito or little duck, for obvious reasons!

Turista Plus seats on an Alvia train   Alvia train at Madrid Chamartin

Comfort class seats on an Alvia train.

 

Alvia train at Madrid Chamartin.

 

The regional express train between Vigo & Porto.  Photos courtesy of Martin Hill.

Option 2, Madrid to Porto with overnight hotel in Vigo - same as option 1, but with overnight stop.  Can be more time-effective

  • Day 1, travel from Madrid to Vigo by high-speed Alvia train, leaving Madrid Chamartin at 16:00 & arriving Vigo Urzaiz at 20:12.

    Daily except Saturdays you may find a later 19:15 departure arriving 23:46.

    Alvia trains are comfortable and air-conditioned with a cafe-bar.  Have lunch and spend a pleasant afternoon in Vigo.

    Fares start at €33 in Standard class (2nd class) or €40 in Comfort class (1st class).  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

    Buy a ticket at www.thetrainline.com or www.raileurope.com (both easy to use, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee) or at the Spanish Railways website www.renfe.com (much more fiddly, may reject some overseas credit cards, in €, see this advice on using it).  Spanish trains normally open for booking 60 days ahead, but this varies.  You print your own ticket.

    Vigo Urzaiz station is a 1.1 km 15-minute walk from Vigo Guixar station, see walking map.

  • Stay overnight in Vigo. The NH Collection Vigo hotel & cheaper Hotel Atlantico Vigo are both near the station with great reviews.

  • Day 2, travel from Vigo to Porto by regional express train, leaving Vigo Guixar at 08:58 and arriving Porto Campanhã at 10:20.

    The fare is €14.95, 2nd class only, buy a ticket at the station or at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com.

Malaga & Seville to Porto

  • Step 1, trains link Malaga Maria Zambrano station with Seville Santa Justa in 1h55 several times through the day.  Check times & buy a ticket at www.raileurope.com, www.thetrainline.com or www.renfe.com.

  • Step 2, travel from Seville to Faro by bus, journey time 2h30 to 3h15, with a departure roughly every 2-3 hours.

    Several bus companies run on this route including Also, Damas, EuroLines and Iberobus.  Buses typically leave Seville at 08:30, 09:30, 11:30 & 16:00, but it varies so check online at Omio.com.  If you're starting in Malaga, look for buses that start from Seville Santa Justa station, so it's an easy same-station train-bus interchange.

    The fare is around €17-€21 each way. 

    Check times and buy tickets for all these companies at Omio.com and print your own ticket.

  • Step 3, travel from Faro to Porto by train, usually with a change at Lisbon Oriente, but there's usually a late afternoon direct train.

    Fares start at €20.50 if you book ahead.

    Check times and buy a ticket at the Portuguese Railways website www.cp.pt (in €) or at Omio.com (in €, £ or $).  Booking opens 60 days ahead.  You print your own ticket.

    I'd allow at least 1 hour between bus and train in Faro.

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Spain to Faro & the Algarve

Madrid to Faro

  • Step 2, travel from Seville to Faro by bus, journey time 2h30 to 3h15, with a departure roughly every 2-3 hours.

    Several bus companies run on this route including Also, Damas, EuroLines and Iberobus.  Buses typically leave Seville at 08:30, 09:30, 11:30 & 16:00, but it varies so check online at Omio.com.  If you're starting in Malaga, look for buses that start from Seville Santa Justa station, so it's an easy same-station train-bus interchange.  I'd allow at least 40 minutes between train & bus.

    The fare is around €17-€21 each way. 

    Check times and buy tickets for all these companies at Omio.com and print your own ticket.

An AVE train to Seville ready to leave Madrid Atocha

Madrid to Seville by AVE.  An AVE-S100 high-speed train ready to leave Madrid Atocha. 

An AVE train to Seville ready to leave Madrid Atocha   Inside the Sala Club (1st class lounge) at Madrid Atocha.

An AVE S100 high-speed train boarding at Madrid Atocha. 

 

Cafe-bar.  All AVEs and most Intercity & Alvia trains have a cafe-bar serving snacks, hot & cold dishes, tea, coffee, beer & wine.

AVE Preferente class on an S100 AVE train   Complimentary at-seat meal in Club class from Madrid to Barcelona

Comfort class (Premium 1st class) with reclining seats, power sockets for laptops & mobiles.

A hot at-seat meal with wine is available in Comfort class on some trains, see info above.

AVE Turista Plus class on an S100 AVE train to Seville   AVE Tourist class on an S100 AVE train from Madrid to Seville

Comfort class (1st class) with reclining seats, power sockets for laptops & mobiles.

Standard class (2nd class) with comfortable seats with power sockets.

Malaga, Granada, Cordoba or Seville to Faro

  • Step 1, travel from Malaga Maria Zambrano station to Seville Santa Justa in 1h55, trains run at various times through the day.  Trains also run from Granada & Cordoba to Seville Santa Justa.

    Check times & buy a ticket at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com (both easy, small booking fee) or www.renfe.com (more fiddly).

  • Step 2, travel from Seville to Faro by bus, journey time 2h30 to 3h15, with a departure roughly every 2-3 hours.

    Several bus companies run on this route including Also, Damas, EuroLines and Iberobus.  Buses typically leave Seville at 08:30, 09:30, 11:30 & 16:00, but it varies so check online at Omio.com.  If you're starting in Malaga, look for buses that start from Seville Santa Justa station, so it's an easy same-station train-bus interchange.

    The fare is around €17-€21 each way. 

    Check times and buy tickets for all these companies at Omio.com and print your own ticket.

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Spain to Andorra
  • Step 2, travel from Barcelona to Andorra by bus.  6 or 7 buses leave Barcelona Sants station every day for Andorra La Vella, capital of Andorra, journey time 3 hours, fare around €29, see www.autocarsnadal.com.

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Spain to Cologne, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Berlin & Germany from €79

Option 1, Madrid to Cologne or Frankfurt in a single day

  • Step 2, travel from Barcelona to Paris by TGV Duplex leaving Barcelona Sants at 10:33 and arriving Paris Gare de Lyon at 17:18.

    This impressive 320 km/h (199 mph) double-deck TGV Duplex has a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  Book an upper deck seat for the best views, any seat number >60 is upper deck.

    You'll get great views of the imposing 2,784m Mt Canigou as the train rounds the southern end of the Pyrenees, you'll pass the historic Fort de Salses right by the tracks just after Perpignan, flamingos on the lakes in the South of France between Narbonne & Montpelier, and Béziers cathedral, see the photos, tips & journey information here.

    Fares start at €39 in 2nd class or €59 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

    Allow at least 1 hour to change trains & stations from Paris Gare de Lyon to the Gare du Nord (for Cologne) or Gare de l'Est (for Frankfurt).

  • Step 3, travel from Paris to Germany by ICE, leaving Paris Gare de l'Est at 19:07 and arriving Frankfurt (Main) Hbf at 22:59.

    Change at Mannheim for Cologne Hbf, arriving 00:07.

    Fares start at €39.90 in 2nd class or €69.90 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

  • Buy tickets at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com, you can then buy all your tickets together in one place, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem.

    Try booking from Madrid or Valencia to Germany as one transaction, if you have any problems, book each train separately, adding each to your basket and checking out at the end.  You print your own tickets.  Booking for the TGV & Thalys opens up to 4 months ahead, but only 60 days for Spanish trains.  There's a small booking fee.

    Tip:  If booking the whole trip in one go at Raileurope, I recommend clicking More options, entering Paris (any station) as a via station, with a stopover duration of 1 hour.  This gets you a more robust connection, by default the SNCF ticketing system allows cross-Paris connections as short as 40 minutes, which I consider far too tight for comfort.

    Alternatively, you can book each train separately, although it's more effort and unlikely to make it materially cheaper, but no booking fee:  Book the Spanish trains with Renfe at www.renfe.com (much m ore fiddly, may reject some overseas credit cards, see advice on using it here). Book from Barcelona to Paris at the French Railways website www.sncf-connect.com, then book the Thalys to Cologne at www.sncf-connect.com or the ICE to Frankfurt at the German Railways website int.bahn.de.

Option 2, Madrid & Spain to Germany with overnight stop in Barcelona

  • Step 1, travel from Spanish cities to Barcelona in the afternoon or early evening:

    Travel from Malaga to Barcelona by AVE-S112 high-speed train leaving Malaga Maria Zambrano at 16:44, arriving Barcelona Sants at 23:00.  Fares start at around €46.

    Travel from Seville or Cordoba to Barcelona by AVE-S112 high-speed train leaving Seville Santa Justa at 16:07 or Cordoba at 16:52, arriving Barcelona Sants at 21:50.  Fares start at around €46.

    Travel from Granada to Barcelona by AVE-S112 high-speed train, leaving Granada at 16:18 and arriving Barcelona Sants at 23:00.

    Travel from Alicante or Valencia to Barcelona by EuroMed train, leaving Alicante at 16:10 or Valencia Joaquin Sorolla at 19:07, arriving Barcelona Sants at 21:05.  Fares start at around €30.  By all means take an earlier train for more of an evening in Barcelona.

    Travel from Madrid Atocha to Barcelona Sants in 2h30 by AVE S-103 high-speed train on any departure you like, or take a competing Iryo, lo-cost Avlo or lo-cost Ouigo train, see the Madrid to Barcelona by train page.  You can leave early evening, but trains leave almost every hour so by all means travel earlier and have a pleasant evening in Barcelona.  Fares start at around €35 by AVE or from just €7 by Avlo.  AVE trains have a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  Lo-cost Avlo & Ouigo trains are one-class, no catering, free WiFi.

    Buy tickets for any of these trains at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com (both easy to use, in €, £ or $, small booking fee, overseas cards no problem) or at the Spanish Railways website www.renfe.com (in €, significantly more fiddly, may reject some overseas credit cards, see advice on using it).  Spanish trains normally open for booking 60 days ahead, but this varies.  You print your own tickets.

  • Stay overnight in Barcelona...  The Hotel Barcelo Sants is the top choice here, it's part of Barcelona Sants station so easy to use when arriving & departing by train, with great reviews & good feedback from Seat61 users.  See other suggested hotels near the station.

  • Step 2, travel from Barcelona to Paris by TGV Duplex leaving Barcelona Sants at 10:33 and arriving Paris Gare de Lyon at 17:18.

    This impressive 320 km/h (199 mph) double-deck TGV Duplex has a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  Book an upper deck seat for the best views, any seat number >60 is upper deck.

    You'll get great views of the imposing 2,784m Mt Canigou as the train rounds the southern end of the Pyrenees, you'll pass the historic Fort de Salses right by the tracks just after Perpignan, flamingos on the lakes in the South of France between Narbonne & Montpelier, and Béziers cathedral, see the photos, tips & journey information here.

    Fares start at €39 in 2nd class or €59 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

    Allow at least 1 hour to change trains & stations in Paris from the Gare de Lyon to the Gare du Nord (for Cologne) or Gare de l'Est (for Frankfurt).

  • Step 3, travel from Paris to Germany by ICE, leaving Paris Gare de l'Est at 19:07 and arriving Frankfurt (Main) Hbf at 22:59.

    Change at Mannheim for Cologne Hbf, arriving 00:07.

    Fares start at €39.90 in 2nd class or €69.90 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

  • Step 4 for Hamburg, Berlin:  Stay overnight in Cologne and take any onward train you like next day.

  • How to buy tickets

    Buy tickets at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com, you can then buy all your tickets together in one place, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem.

    First book from any Spanish city to Barcelona, add to basket, then book from Barcelona to Cologne or Frankfurt all in one go for the following day & add to your basket, also book any onward train from Cologne to Hamburg or Berlin, add to basket then check out.  You print your own tickets.  Booking for the TGV & Thalys opens up to 4 months ahead, but only 60 days ahead for Spanish trains.  There's a small booking fee.

    Tip:  When booking Barcelona to Germany at Raileurope I recommend clicking More options, entering Paris (any station) as a via station, with a stopover duration of 1 hour (or longer, if you'd like more time in Paris).  This gets you a more robust connection, by default the SNCF ticketing system allows cross-Paris connections as short as 40 minutes, which I consider far too tight for comfort.

    Alternatively, you can book each train separately, although it's more effort and unlikely to make it materially cheaper, other than avoiding the booking fee:  Book the Spanish trains with Renfe at www.renfe.com, but see advice on using it here. Book from Barcelona to Paris at the French Railways website www.sncf-connect.com, then book Paris to Germany at the German Railways website int.bahn.de.

Option 3, Madrid & Spain to Germany with overnight stop in Paris

  • Step 1 from Madrid:  Take the 10:30 AVE-S103 high-speed train from Madrid Atocha arriving Barcelona Sants at 13:15, with fares from around €35.  By all means take an earlier train and have lunch in Barcelona.

    Step 1 from Alicante or Valencia:  Take a EuroMed train to Barcelona, leaving Alicante at 07:25 or Valencia Joaquin Sorolla at 09:15 arriving Barcelona Sants at 11:55.

    No same-day connection is possible from Malaga, Cordoba or Seville, so see other options.

  • Step 2, travel from Barcelona to Paris by TGV Duplex leaving Barcelona Sants at 14:32, arriving Paris Gare de Lyon at 21:18.

    This impressive 320 km/h (199 mph) double-deck TGV Duplex has a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  Book an upper deck seat for the best views, any seat number >60 is upper deck.

    You'll get great views of the imposing 2,784m Mt Canigou as the train rounds the southern end of the Pyrenees, you'll pass the historic Fort de Salses right by the tracks just after Perpignan, flamingos on the lakes in the South of France between Narbonne & Montpelier, and Béziers cathedral, see the photos, tips & journey information here.

    Fares start at €39 in 2nd class or €59 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

  • How to buy tickets

    Buy tickets at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com, you can then buy all your tickets together in one place, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem.

    First book from any Spanish city to Paris, add to basket, then book from Paris to Germany for the following day and add that to your basket, then check out.  You print your own tickets.  Booking for the TGV & onward trains opens up to 4 months ahead, but only 60 days ahead for Spanish trains.  There's a small booking fee.

    Alternatively, you can book each train separately, although it's more effort and unlikely to make it materially cheaper, but no booking fee:  Book the Spanish trains with Renfe at www.renfe.com, but see advice on using it here. Book from Barcelona to Paris at the French Railways website www.sncf-connect.com, then book Paris to Cologne by Thalys at www.sncf-connect.com or Paris to Frankfurt, Munich, Berlin and other stations in Germany at the German Railways website int.bahn.de.

Option 4, Madrid & Spain to Germany with overnight stop in Marseille, avoids changing stations in Paris

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Spain to Vienna, Salzburg, Innsbruck & Austria from €88

Option 1, Spain to Austria using the Paris-Vienna sleeper - the most comfortable & time-effective option, 3 times per week

  • Step 3, travel from Paris to Salzburg or Vienna by Nightjet sleeper train, leaving Paris Gare de l'Est at 18:58 on Tuesdays, Fridays & Sundays, arriving Salzburg Hbf at 07:26 and Vienna Hbf at 10:12.

    This comfortable Austrian Nightjet train has two air-conditioned Comfortline sleeping-cars each with nine 1, 2 & 3-berth standard compartments with washbasin and three 1, 2 or 3-berth deluxe compartments with shower & toilet. There are toilets & a shower at the end of the corridor for passengers in the regular sleepers.  The sleeping-car attendant can serve drinks, snacks & light meals from a room service menu.  The train has a couchette car with 4 & 6 berth compartments, and an ordinary seats car.  A light breakfast is included in sleepers & couchettes, served in your compartment.  See the Nightjet page for a guide to on-board accommodation, travel tips, photos & video.

    Fares start at €49.90 in 6-berth couchettes, €59.90 in 4-berth couchettes, €89.90 in a 3-bed sleeper, €109.90 in a 2-bed sleeper or €159.90 in a single-bed sleeper, all per person per berth.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

    Buy tickets at www.thetrainline.com (easy to use, in plain English, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee) or Austrian Railways www.oebb.at (more fiddly, in €, same fares).  Booking opens up to 6 months ahead.  You print your own ticket.

The Nightjet sleeper from Munich to Amsterdam

Paris to Vienna by Nightjet sleeper trainMore information about Nightjets.

Nightjet deluxe 2-berth sleeper   Nightjet deluxe sleeper in day mode   Nightjet deluxe sleeper toilet & shower   Nightjet standard (economy) sleeper

Deluxe sleeper.  Each compartment can be used as a 1, 2 or 3-bed room.  Larger photoVideo of deluxe room

 

The same deluxe sleeper in evening/morning mode with beds folded away, seats folded out.  Larger photo.

 

Deluxe rooms have a compact shower & toilet, towels & hair/body wash provided.  Larger photo.

 

Standard sleeper set up as 2-berth, washstand open.  It can be used as a 1, 2 or 3 berth.  Larger photo.

6-berth couchettes   4-berth couchette on Nightjet train   Couchette car on Brussels-Vienna sleeper

6-berth couchettes.

 

4-berth couchettes.

 

Couchette car.

Option 2, Madrid & Spain to Innsbruck, Salzburg & Vienna with overnight stop in Geneva - the scenic option

  • Day 2, travel from Barcelona to Lyon by AVE high-speed train, leaving Barcelona Sants at 08:22 and arriving Lyon Part Dieu at 13:20.

    This train starts running on 28 July 2023, initially only on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays, but daily all year from 1 September 2023.

    This comfortable Spanish high-speed train has a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  Look out for great views of the imposing 2,784m Mt Canigou on the left as the train rounds the southern end of the Pyrenees, you'll pass the historic Fort de Salses on the left by the tracks just after Perpignan, flamingos on the lakes in the South of France between Narbonne & Montpelier, and Béziers cathedral on the left, see the photos, tips & journey information here.

    Fares start at €39 in 2nd class or €49 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

    Book this train at www.thetrainline.com (easy to use, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee) or the Spanish Railways website www.renfe.com (in €, significantly more fiddly, see advice on using it).  Booking normally opens 4 months ahead.  You print your own ticket.

  • Day 2, travel from Lyon to Geneva by TER regional train, leaving Lyon Part Dieu at 14:38 and arriving Geneva at 16:35.

    These TER trains use former inter-city carriages, old but comfortable.  There's no catering, so bring your own food & drink.  It's a lovely journey along the river Rhône and through the Jura.

    Lyon to Geneva costs a fixed-price €31.90 in 2nd class, €42.40 in 1st class.

    Book this train at www.thetrainline.com (easy to use, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee) or at the French Railways website www.sncf-connect.com (in €, no booking fee).  Booking normally opens 4 months ahead.  You print your own ticket.

  • Stay overnight in Geneva.  Suggested hotels with good reviews near the station include Hotel Cornavin Geneve, Hotel Les Arcades, ibis Styles Geneva Gare.  Hotels in Switzerland can be expensive, if you're on a budget you can book budget private rooms in a one-star hotel or backpacker hostel near the station using www.hostelworld.com.

  • Day 3, take a frequent Swiss domestic train from Geneva to Zurich HB then a smart Austrian railjet train from Zurich HB to Innsbruck, Salzburg, Linz or Vienna.  This is a lovely journey through the wonderful Arlberg Pass, see the photos & video on the Arlberg Railway page.

    Geneva to Innsbruck starts at €29.90, to Salzburg or Vienna at €39.90.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

    Book from Geneva to anywhere in Austria at www.thetrainline.com (easy to use, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee) or the Austrian railways website www.oebb.at (in €, more fiddly).  Booking opens up to 6 months ahead.  You print your own ticket.

A railjet train about to leave Zurich Hbf for Innsbruck, Salzburg & Vienna

A railjet to Innsbruck, Salzburg & Vienna about to leave Zurich HB.

  Premium class seats on the Munich-Vienna RailJet train   Railjet restaurant car

Railjet first class, with black leather seats.

 

Business classAbout.

 

The restaurant.

Railjet train at Vienna Hbf   Railjet train standard class

Railjet is Austrian Railways premier train. More photos & information about railjet trains

 

Economy class on railjet, in open saloons with large windows.  Some seats around tables, most unidirectional.

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Spain to Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo & Scandinavia

Option 1, Madrid & Spain to Scandinavia with overnight stops in Marseille & Hamburg

  • For Malmö or Gothenburg, Öresund trains run hourly from Copenhagen to Gothenburg in 3h53 and every 20 minutes from Copenhagen to Malmö in 39 minutes.

    Book from Hamburg to Malmö or Gothenburg (= Göteborg Central) as one transaction from €39.90 at int.bahn.de and print your own ticket.

Option 2, Madrid & Spain to Scandinavia with overnight stops in Barcelona & Frankfurt

  • Day 1, travel from Spanish cities to Barcelona in the afternoon or early evening:

    Travel from Malaga to Barcelona by AVE-S112 high-speed train leaving Malaga Maria Zambrano at 16:44, arriving Barcelona Sants at 23:00.  Fares start at around €46.

    Travel from Seville or Cordoba to Barcelona by AVE-S112 high-speed train leaving Seville Santa Justa at 16:07 or Cordoba at 16:52, arriving Barcelona Sants at 21:50.  Fares start at around €46.

    Travel from Granada to Barcelona by AVE-S112 high-speed train, leaving Granada at 16:18 and arriving Barcelona Sants at 23:00.

    Travel from Alicante or Valencia to Barcelona by EuroMed train, leaving Alicante at 16:10 or Valencia Joaquin Sorolla at 19:07, arriving Barcelona Sants at 21:05.  Fares start at around €30.  By all means take an earlier train for more of an evening in Barcelona.

    Travel from Madrid Atocha to Barcelona Sants in 2h30 by AVE S-103 high-speed train on any departure you like, or take a competing Iryo, lo-cost Avlo or lo-cost Ouigo train, see the Madrid to Barcelona by train page.  You can leave early evening, but trains leave almost every hour so by all means travel earlier and have a pleasant evening in Barcelona.  Fares start at around €35 by AVE or from just €7 by Avlo.  AVE trains have a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  Lo-cost Avlo & Ouigo trains are one-class, no catering, free WiFi.

    Buy tickets for any of these trains at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com (both easy to use, in €, £ or $, small booking fee, overseas cards no problem) or at the Spanish Railways website www.renfe.com (in €, significantly more fiddly, may reject some overseas credit cards, see advice on using it).  Spanish trains normally open for booking 60 days ahead, but this varies.  You print your own tickets.

  • Stay overnight in Barcelona...  The Hotel Barcelo Sants is the top choice here, it's part of Barcelona Sants station so easy to use when arriving & departing by train, with great reviews & good feedback from Seat61 users.  See other suggested hotels near the station.

  • Day 2, travel from Barcelona to Paris by TGV Duplex leaving Barcelona Sants at 10:33 and arriving Paris Gare de Lyon at 17:18.

    This impressive 320 km/h (199 mph) double-deck TGV Duplex has a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi, book an upper deck seat for the best views, any seat number >60 is upper deck.

    You'll get great views of the imposing 2,784m Mt Canigou as the train rounds the southern end of the Pyrenees, you'll pass the historic Fort de Salses right by the tracks just after Perpignan, flamingos on the lakes in the South of France between Narbonne & Montpelier, and Béziers cathedral, see the photos, tips & journey information here.

    Fares start at €39 in 2nd class or €59 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

    Book this train at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com (both easy to use, in €, £ or $, small booking fee) or the French Railways website www.sncf-connect.com (in €, no booking fee).  Booking opens up to 4 months ahead.  You print your own ticket or can select a mobile ticket to show on your phone.

    Change stations in Paris by metro or taxi from the Gare de Lyon to the Gare de l'Est.

  • Day 2, travel from Paris to Frankfurt by ICE, leaving Paris Gare de l'Est at 19:07 and arriving Frankfurt (Main) Hbf at 22:59.

    The ICE has a restaurant car, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.

    Book this at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.comBooking normally opens up to 4 months ahead.  You print your own ticket or can show a mobile ticket on your phone.

  • Stay overnight in Frankfurt.  Hotels next to the station with good or great reviews include the Flemings Express Hotel & Hotel Hamburger Hof, both of which I have stayed at and can recommend.  There's also The Frankfurt and the inexpensive Hotel Topas.

  • Day 3 for Copenhagen

    Travel from Frankfurt to Copenhagen by train, taking an ICE train from Frankfurt to Hamburg then a Danish intercity train to Copenhagen.  For example the 08:58 from Frankfurt (Main) Hbf, change at Hamburg Hbf, arriving Copenhagen at 17:34.  But times may vary.

    Fares start at from €37.90 in 2nd class or €59.90 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

    Book from Frankfurt to Copenhagen at int.bahn.de looking for departures with 1 change.  Booking opens up to 6 months ahead.  You print your own ticket or can show it on your laptop or phone.

    Tip:  It's a good idea to change Transfer time from Normal to minimum 30 minutes, to ensure robust connections.

  • Day 3 for Stockholm

    It's just about possible to travel from Frankfurt to Stockholm in a day with changes at Hamburg, Copenhagen & Malmo, using a through ticket from just €59.90 booked at int.bahn.de.  Depending on the day and date, you can leave Frankfurt (Main) Hbf at 08:58 and arrive at 23:41, see what bahn.de gives you.  There may be some tight connections but with a through ticket you're protected and will be taken forward by later trains if there's a delay and you miss the onward train.  Alternatively, stay overnight in Copenhagen and take an onward 200 km/h X2000 train to Stockholm on day 3, from around €23 booked at www.sj.se (Swedish Railways).

  • Day 3 for Oslo & Norway

    Take an ICE from Frankfurt to Hamburg and Intercity train to Copenhagen.  Book this at int.bahn.de and you'll see various departures from €39.90 with 1 change, for example the 08:58 from Frankfurt (Main) Hbf, change at Hamburg Hbf, arriving Copenhagen at 17:34.  You print your own ticket or can show it on your laptop or phone.  Stay overnight in Copenhagen, then take a train from Copenhagen to Oslo with 1 easy change at Gothenburg, booked from €46 at www.sj.se (Swedish Railways).  Alternatively, spend the morning exploring Copenhagen and take the overnight cruise ferry to Oslo with comfortable en suite cabins, bars and restaurants, see www.dfds.co.ukSee more information on Copenhagen-Oslo options here.

Hamburg-Copenhagen train at Copenhagen

Hamburg to Copenhagen by Intercity train.  From June 2023, these trains are temporarily being operated by former German Railways intercity cars and a Danish electric locomotive, until new trains being built by Talgo arrive in 2024.  The current trains have 1st & 2nd class, power sockets at seats, but no catering so bring your own food & drink.  More information about the Hamburg-Copenhagen journey.

2nd class seats are almost all open-plan like this.  There are a handful of 6-seat 2nd class compartments in one of the coaches, but only a few.

1st class comparment on a Berlin to Amsterdam train   1st class 6-seat compartment on a Berlin to Amsterdam train

The 1st class car has 6-seater compartments like this. Larger photo Larger photo.

An X2000 train at Stockholm Central

Copenhagen to Stockholm by tilting 200km/h X2000, seen at Stockholm CentralMore about X2000 trains.

1st class seats on a Copenhagen-Stockholm X2000 train 2nd class seats on a Copenhagen-Stockholm X2000 train

1st class on an X2000.  Larger photo.

 

2nd class on an X2000.  Larger photo.

Bistro seating area on a Copenhagen-Stockholm X2000 train   Bistro seating area on a Copenhagen-Stockholm X2000 train

Bistro seating on an X2000 train. Larger photo.

 

Bistro on an X2000 train. Larger photo.

On the Oresund link!

Crossing the impressive Öresund bridge from Denmark to Sweden.

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Spain to Helsinki & Finland

Option 1, Madrid & Spain to Helsinki using a Finnlines ferry from Germany - the easiest option

  • Book onward trains within Finland at the Finnish Railways website www.vr.fi.

Finnlines ferry Travemunde-Helsinki

Finnlines operate the Finnstar, Finnmaid & Finnlady on the Travemünde-Helsinki route.  Photo courtesy of Hubert Bartkowiak.  Photos below courtesy of Chris Russell.

Cabin on Finnlines ferry Travemunde-Helsinki   Gym on Finnlines ferry   Sauna on Finnlines ferry

Standard cabin.  Larger photo.

 

Gym with a view.

 

Sauna.

Option 2, Madrid & Spain to Helsinki by train to Stockholm, then ferry

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Spain to Prague & the Czech Republic

Option 1, Madrid & Spain to Prague with overnight stop in Paris

Option 2, Madrid & Spain to Prague using the Paris-Linz sleeper - the most comfortable & time-effective option, 3 times per week

  • Day 2, travel from Paris to Linz by Nightjet, leaving Paris Gare de l'Est at 18:58 on Tuesdays, Fridays & Sundays, arriving Linz at 08:46.

    This comfortable Austrian Nightjet sleeper train has two air-conditioned Comfortline sleeping-cars each with nine 1, 2 & 3-berth standard compartments with washbasin and three 1, 2 or 3-berth deluxe compartments with shower & toilet. There are toilets & a shower at the end of the corridor for passengers in the regular sleepers.  The sleeping-car attendant can serve drinks, snacks & light meals from a room service menu.  The train has a couchette car with 4 & 6 berth compartments, and an ordinary seats car.  A light breakfast is included in sleepers & couchettes, served in your compartment.  See the Nightjet page for a guide to on-board accommodation, travel tips, photos & video.

    Fares start at €49.90 in 6-berth couchettes, €59.90 in 4-berth couchettes, €89.90 in a 3-bed sleeper, €109.90 in a 2-bed sleeper or €159.90 in a single-bed sleeper, all per person per berth.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

    Buy tickets at www.thetrainline.com (easy to use, in plain English, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee) or Austrian Railways www.oebb.at (more fiddly, in €, same fares).  Booking opens up to 6 months ahead.  You print your own ticket.

  • Day 3, travel from Linz to Prague by EuroCity train, leaving Linz at 11:54 and arriving Prague Hlavni at 15:39.

    The modern Czech EuroCity train has a bistro car, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.

    Fares start at €19 in 2nd class or €29 in 1st class.

    Buy tickets for this train at the Czech Railways website www.cd.czBooking opens 90 days ahead.  You print your own ticket or can show it on your phone.

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Spain to Bratislava & Slovakia

Option 1, Madrid & Spain to Bratislava using the Paris-Vienna sleeper - the most comfortable & time-effective option, 3 times per week

  • Day 2, travel from Paris to Vienna by Nightjet, leaving Paris Gare de l'Est at 18:58 on Tuesdays, Fridays & Sundays, arriving Vienna Hbf 10:12.

    This comfortable Austrian Nightjet sleeper train has two air-conditioned Comfortline sleeping-cars each with nine 1, 2 & 3-berth standard compartments with washbasin and three 1, 2 or 3-berth deluxe compartments with shower & toilet. There are toilets & a shower at the end of the corridor for passengers in the regular sleepers.  The sleeping-car attendant can serve drinks, snacks & light meals from a room service menu.  The train has a couchette car with 4 & 6 berth compartments, and an ordinary seats car.  A light breakfast is included in sleepers & couchettes, served in your compartment.  See the Nightjet page for a guide to on-board accommodation, travel tips, photos & video.

    Fares start at €49.90 in 6-berth couchettes, €59.90 in 4-berth couchettes, €89.90 in a 3-bed sleeper, €109.90 in a 2-bed sleeper or €159.90 in a single-bed sleeper, all per person per berth.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

    Buy tickets at www.thetrainline.com (easy to use, in plain English, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee) or Austrian Railways www.oebb.at (more fiddly, in €, same fares).  Booking opens up to 6 months ahead.  You print your own ticket.

The Nightjet sleeper from Munich to Amsterdam

Paris to Vienna by Nightjet sleeper trainMore information about Nightjets.

Nightjet deluxe 2-berth sleeper   Nightjet deluxe sleeper in day mode   Nightjet deluxe sleeper toilet & shower   Nightjet standard (economy) sleeper

Deluxe sleeper.  Each compartment can be used as a 1, 2 or 3-bed room.  Larger photoVideo of deluxe room

 

The same deluxe sleeper in evening/morning mode with beds folded away, seats folded out.  Larger photo.

 

Deluxe rooms have a compact shower & toilet, towels & hair/body wash provided.  Larger photo.

 

Standard sleeper set up as 2-berth, washstand open.  It can be used as a 1, 2 or 3 berth.  Larger photo.

6-berth couchettes   4-berth couchette on Nightjet train   Couchette car on Brussels-Vienna sleeper

6-berth couchettes.

 

4-berth couchettes.

 

Couchette car.

Option 2, Spain to Bratislava with an overnight stop in Geneva - the most scenic option

  • Day 2, travel from Barcelona to Lyon by AVE high-speed train, leaving Barcelona Sants at 08:22 and arriving Lyon Part Dieu at 13:20.

    This train starts running on 28 July 2023, initially only on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays, but daily all year from 1 September 2023.

    This comfortable Spanish high-speed train has a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  Look out for great views of the imposing 2,784m Mt Canigou on the left as the train rounds the southern end of the Pyrenees, you'll pass the historic Fort de Salses on the left by the tracks just after Perpignan, flamingos on the lakes in the South of France between Narbonne & Montpelier, and Béziers cathedral on the left, see the photos, tips & journey information here.

    Fares start at €39 in 2nd class or €49 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

    Book this train at www.thetrainline.com (easy to use, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee) or the Spanish Railways website www.renfe.com (in €, significantly more fiddly, see advice on using it).  Booking normally opens 4 months ahead.  You print your own ticket.

  • Day 2, travel from Lyon to Geneva by TER regional train, leaving Lyon Part Dieu at 14:38 and arriving Geneva at 16:35.

    These TER trains use former inter-city carriages, old but comfortable.  There's no catering, so bring your own food & drink.  It's a lovely journey along the river Rhône and through the Jura.

    Lyon to Geneva costs a fixed-price €31.90 in 2nd class, €42.40 in 1st class.

    Book this train at www.thetrainline.com (easy to use, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee) or at the French Railways website www.sncf-connect.com (in €, no booking fee).  Booking normally opens 4 months ahead.  You print your own ticket.

  • Stay overnight in Geneva.  Suggested hotels with good reviews near the station include Hotel Cornavin Geneve, Hotel Les Arcades, ibis Styles Geneva Gare.  Hotels in Switzerland can be expensive, if you're on a budget you can book budget private rooms in a one-star hotel or backpacker hostel near the station using www.hostelworld.com.

  • Day 3, travel from Geneva to Bratislava, leaving Geneva at 09:15 by Swiss Intercity train and changing onto the 12:40 railjet train from Zurich HB to Bratislava Hlavna, arriving 21:51.

    This direct Zurich-Bratislava train started running in December 2018, with restaurant car, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  The journey takes you through the beautifully scenic Arlberg Pass, see the photos & video on the Arlberg Pass page.  Have your camera to hand!

    Book from Geneva to Bratislava at www.thetrainline.com (easy to use, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee) or the Austrian Railways website www.oebb.at (in €, a bit more fiddly, same fares).  Booking opens up to 6 months ahead and you print your own ticket.

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Spain to Budapest & Hungary

Option 1, Barcelona to Budapest using the Paris-Vienna sleeper - the most comfortable & time-effective option, 3 times per week

  • Day 2, travel from Paris to Vienna by Nightjet, leaving Paris Gare de l'Est at 18:58 on Tuesdays, Fridays & Sundays, arriving Vienna Hbf 10:12.

    This comfortable Austrian Nightjet sleeper train has two air-conditioned Comfortline sleeping-cars each with nine 1, 2 & 3-berth standard compartments with washbasin and three 1, 2 or 3-berth deluxe compartments with shower & toilet. There are toilets & a shower at the end of the corridor for passengers in the regular sleepers.  The sleeping-car attendant can serve drinks, snacks & light meals from a room service menu.  The train has a couchette car with 4 & 6 berth compartments, and an ordinary seats car.  A light breakfast is included in sleepers & couchettes, served in your compartment.  See the Nightjet page for a guide to on-board accommodation, travel tips, photos & video.

    Fares start at €49.90 in 6-berth couchettes, €59.90 in 4-berth couchettes, €89.90 in a 3-bed sleeper, €109.90 in a 2-bed sleeper or €159.90 in a single-bed sleeper, all per person per berth.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

    Buy tickets at www.thetrainline.com (easy to use, in plain English, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee) or Austrian Railways www.oebb.at (more fiddly, in €, same fares).  Booking opens up to 6 months ahead.  You print your own ticket.

  • Day 3, travel from Vienna to Budapest by railjet train, leaving Vienna Hbf at 11:40 & arriving Budapest Keleti at 14:19.

    The swish modern railjet has a restaurant car, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  An earlier connection is possible, but I'd allow at least an hour between trains when connecting with a sleeper train just in case of delay.

    Fares start at €19.90 in 2nd class or €29.90 in 1st class.

    Book this train at www.thetrainline.com (easiest to use, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee) or Austrian Railways' own site www.oebb.at (same prices, in €, a bit more fiddly).  Booking opens up to 6 months ahead.  You print your own ticket.

The Nightjet sleeper from Munich to Amsterdam

Paris to Vienna by Nightjet sleeper trainMore information about Nightjets.

Nightjet deluxe 2-berth sleeper   Nightjet deluxe sleeper in day mode   Nightjet deluxe sleeper toilet & shower   Nightjet standard (economy) sleeper

Deluxe sleeper.  Each compartment can be used as a 1, 2 or 3-bed room.  Larger photoVideo of deluxe room

 

The same deluxe sleeper in evening/morning mode with beds folded away, seats folded out.  Larger photo.

 

Deluxe rooms have a compact shower & toilet, towels & hair/body wash provided.  Larger photo.

 

Standard sleeper set up as 2-berth, washstand open.  It can be used as a 1, 2 or 3 berth.  Larger photo.

6-berth couchettes   4-berth couchette on Nightjet train   Couchette car on Brussels-Vienna sleeper

6-berth couchettes.

 

4-berth couchettes.

 

Couchette car.

Option 2, Barcelona to Budapest with an overnight stop in Geneva - the most scenic option

  • Day 2, travel from Barcelona to Lyon by AVE high-speed train, leaving Barcelona Sants at 08:22 and arriving Lyon Part Dieu at 13:20.

    This train starts running on 28 July 2023, initially only on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays, but daily all year from 1 September 2023.

    This comfortable Spanish high-speed train has a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  Look out for great views of the imposing 2,784m Mt Canigou on the left as the train rounds the southern end of the Pyrenees, you'll pass the historic Fort de Salses on the left by the tracks just after Perpignan, flamingos on the lakes in the South of France between Narbonne & Montpelier, and Béziers cathedral on the left, see the photos, tips & journey information here.

    Fares start at €39 in 2nd class or €49 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

    Book this train at www.thetrainline.com (easy to use, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee) or the Spanish Railways website www.renfe.com (in €, significantly more fiddly, see advice on using it).  Booking normally opens 4 months ahead.  You print your own ticket.

  • Day 2, travel from Lyon to Geneva by TER regional train, leaving Lyon Part Dieu at 14:38 and arriving Geneva at 16:35.

    These TER trains use former inter-city carriages, old but comfortable.  There's no catering, so bring your own food & drink.  It's a lovely journey along the river Rhône and through the Jura.

    Lyon to Geneva costs a fixed-price €31.90 in 2nd class, €42.40 in 1st class.

    Book this train at www.thetrainline.com (easy to use, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee) or at the French Railways website www.sncf-connect.com (in €, no booking fee).  Booking normally opens 4 months ahead.  You print your own ticket.

  • Stay overnight in Geneva.  Suggested hotels with good reviews near the station include Hotel Cornavin Genève, Hotel Les Arcades, ibis Styles Geneva Gare.  Hotels in Switzerland can be expensive, if you're on a budget you can book budget private rooms in a one-star hotel or backpacker hostel near the station using www.hostelworld.com.

  • Day 3, travel from Geneva to Zurich by Swiss train leaving Geneva at 07:15, change onto the 10:40 railjet train from Zurich HB to Budapest Keleti arriving 21:19.

    The railjet train has a restaurant car, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.

    This journey passes through the beautifully scenic Arlberg Pass, see the photos & video on the Arlberg Pass page.  Have your camera to hand!

    Book this train at www.thetrainline.com (easiest to use, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee) or Austrian Railways' own site www.oebb.at (same prices, in €, a bit more fiddly).  Booking opens up to 6 months ahead.  You print your own ticket.

A railjet train about to leave Zurich Hbf for Innsbruck, Salzburg & Vienna

Zurich to Budapest by railjet.  A railjet about to leave Zurich HB.

Business class seats on a railjet train   Railjet restaurant car

Business class.  About.

 

Restaurant car.

Business class seats on a railjet train   Economy class seats on a railjet train

First class.

 

Economy class.

The lakes between Zurich and the Austrian border

Soon after leaving Zurich, the railjet runs alongside the Zürichsee, then along the Walensee..

Taking the train through the Arlberg pass...   Lunch is served at your seat in first & business classes

In the Arlberg pass itself, the railway hugs the valley side, past fir forests and meadows.

 

In railjet first & business class, a steward takes your order & serves lunch at your seat.

The mountains keep on coming...

A railjet train from Vienna to Budapest, arrived at Budapest Keleti

The railjet has landed!  Arrived on platform 9 at Budapest Keleti station.

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Spain to Brasov, Bucharest & Romania

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Spain to Ljubljana, Zagreb, Belgrade & Sofia

Option 1, Spain to Ljubljana & Zagreb using the Paris-Salzburg sleeper - the most comfortable & time-effective option, 3 times per week

  • Day 2, travel from Paris to Salzburg by Nightjet, leaving Paris Gare de l'Est at 18:58 on Tuesdays, Fridays & Sundays, arriving Salzburg Hbf 07:26.

    This comfortable Austrian Nightjet sleeper train has two air-conditioned Comfortline sleeping-cars each with nine 1, 2 & 3-berth standard compartments with washbasin and three 1, 2 or 3-berth deluxe compartments with shower & toilet. There are toilets & a shower at the end of the corridor for passengers in the regular sleepers.  The sleeping-car attendant can serve drinks, snacks & light meals from a room service menu.  The train has a couchette car with 4 & 6 berth compartments, and an ordinary seats car.  A light breakfast is included in sleepers & couchettes, served in your compartment.  See the Nightjet page for a guide to on-board accommodation, travel tips, photos & video.

    Fares start at €49.90 in 6-berth couchettes, €59.90 in 4-berth couchettes, €89.90 in a 3-bed sleeper, €109.90 in a 2-bed sleeper or €159.90 in a single-bed sleeper, all per person per berth.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

    Buy tickets at www.thetrainline.com (easy to use, in plain English, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee) or Austrian Railways www.oebb.at (more fiddly, in €, same fares).  Booking opens up to 6 months ahead.  You print your own ticket.

  • Day 3, travel from Salzburg to Ljubljana & Zagreb by EuroCity train, leaving Salzburg Hbf at 14:12 & arriving Lesce-Bled 17:50, Ljubljana 18:32 & Zagreb 20:45.

    This comfortable EuroCity train has a restaurant car between Salzburg & Villach on the Slovenian border, reached late afternoon.  It's a spectacular journey through the mountains of Austria on the Tauern route, then into Slovenia and along the Sava river to Croatia & Zagreb.

    Fares start at €29.90 in 2nd class or €49.90 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

    Book this train at www.thetrainline.com (easiest to use, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee) or Austrian Railways www.oebb.at (same prices, in €, a bit more fiddly).  Booking opens up to 6 months ahead.  You print your own ticket.

  • Stay overnight in Zagreb and continue to Belgrade next day, see here for details.

Scenery between Ljubljana & Zagreb

Scenery between Ljubljana & Zagreb along the river Sava..

Scenery between Ljubljana, Zagreb & Belgrade

Option 2, Madrid & Spain to Ljubljana & Zagreb via Marseille & Venice.

2nd class seats on the train from Venice to Ljubljana   The train from Trieste to Ljubljana

Inside the ETR563.  Larger photo.

 

The train to Ljubljana about to leave Trieste.  Courtesy of Marc Williams.

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Spain to Warsaw, Krakow & Poland

Option 1, Madrid & Spain to Warsaw, with overnight stop in Paris - the fastest option, runs Sunday to Thursday only

  • Day 1 from Madrid:  Travel from Madrid to Barcelona by AVE-S103 high-speed train, leaving Madrid Atocha at 10:30 and arriving Barcelona Sants at 13:15.  Fares start at around €35.  By all means take an earlier train and have lunch in Barcelona.

    Day 1 from Alicante or Valencia:  Travel from Alicante or Valencia to Barcelona by EuroMed train, leaving Alicante at 07:25 or Valencia Joaquin Sorolla at 09:15 arriving Barcelona Sants at 11:55.  Fares start at around €35.

    No same-day connection is possible from Malaga, Cordoba or Seville, so travel the previous day and stay in Barcelona.

    Buy tickets for these trains at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com (both easy to use, in €, £ or $, small booking fee) or at the Spanish Railways website www.renfe.com (in €, much more fiddly to use, may reject some overseas payment cards, see this advice on using it).  Booking for Spanish trains normally opens 60 days ahead, but it varies.  You print your own ticket.

  • Stay overnight in Paris.  If you want a hotel room on arrival at the Gare de Lyon, I suggest the Mercure Paris Gare De Lyon as it's part of the station complex.  If you'd prefer to stay near the Gare de l'Est I suggest the Libertel Gare de l'Est Français or OKKO Hotels Paris Gare de l'Est, both right next to the station with great reviews.  See other suggested hotels near the Gare de Lyon or Gare de l'Est.

  • Day 2, travel from Paris to Warsaw in a day.  Remarkably, high-speed trains make it possible to travel from Paris to Warsaw in a single day, at least on Mondays-Fridays.  It's not possible at weekends.

    You'll usually find a journey leaving Paris Gare de l'Est at 07:20, changing Mannheim & Berlin Hbf, arriving Warsaw Centralna 23:16.

    It's a chill-out journey across Europe, using a 320 km/h double-deck TGV Duplex with cafe-bar & power sockets at all seats between Paris & Mannheim, a superb high-speed ICE train with restaurant car, free WiFi & power sockets at all seats from Mannheim to Berlin, and a EuroCity train with restaurant car from Berlin to Warsaw.  In Berlin, you have time between trains to wander past the Reichstag to the Brandenburg Gate, just 15 minutes walk from Berlin Hbf.

    Paris-Berlin starts at €39.90 in 2nd class or €69.90 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, book ahead for the cheapest fares.

    Berlin-Warsaw starts at €27.90 in 2nd class or €37.90 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, book ahead for the cheapest fares.

    Buy tickets at the German Railways website int.bahn.de.  First run a Paris to Warsaw enquiry, but before you run it, change Transfer time from Normal to minimum 40 minutes.  I also recommend entering Mannheim as a stopover station.

    It should show a 2-change option, although you'll only see silly-money €240+ fares.  Ignore these, note down the trains you need.

    Then split the booking like this:  First use the German Railways website int.bahn.de to book from Paris to Berlin.  Booking for this opens up to 6 months ahead, look for a journey with 1 change.  Then use int.bahn.de again to book from Berlin to Warsaw.  Booking for Berlin-Warsaw trains only opens 60 days ahead.

    You print your own tickets or can show them on your laptop or phone.  I recommend registering when prompted so you can log in & check your bookings or re-print tickets at any time.

Option 2, Spain to Warsaw & Krakow with overnight stops in Paris & Berlin - runs daily

  • Day 1 from Madrid:  Travel from Madrid to Barcelona by AVE-S103 high-speed train, leaving Madrid Atocha at 10:30 and arriving Barcelona Sants at 13:15.  Fares start at around €35.  By all means take an earlier train and have lunch in Barcelona.

    Day 1 from Alicante or Valencia:  Travel from Alicante or Valencia to Barcelona by EuroMed train, leaving Alicante at 07:25 or Valencia Joaquin Sorolla at 09:15 arriving Barcelona Sants at 11:55.  Fares start at around €35.

    No same-day connection is possible from Malaga, Cordoba or Seville, so travel the previous day and stay in Barcelona.

    Buy tickets for these trains at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com (both easy to use, in €, £ or $, small booking fee) or at the Spanish Railways website www.renfe.com (in €, much more fiddly to use, may reject some overseas payment cards, see this advice on using it).  Booking for Spanish trains normally opens 60 days ahead, but it varies.  You print your own ticket.

  • Day 1, travel from Barcelona to Paris by TGV Duplex, leaving Barcelona Sants at 14:32 & arriving Paris Gare de Lyon at 21:18.

    This impressive 320 km/h (199 mph) double-deck TGV Duplex has a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  Book an upper deck seat for the best views, any seat number >60 is upper deck.

    You'll get great views of the imposing 2,784m Mt Canigou as the train rounds the southern end of the Pyrenees, you'll pass the historic Fort de Salses right by the tracks just after Perpignan, flamingos on the lakes in the South of France between Narbonne & Montpelier, and Béziers cathedral, see the photos, tips & journey information here.

    Fares start at €39 in 2nd class or €59 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

    Book this at either www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com (both easy to use, in €, £ or $, small booking fee) or www.sncf-connect.com (in €, no booking fee).  You print your own ticket or can show it on your phone.  Change trains & stations in Paris.

  • Stay overnight in Berlin.  Top choice here is the InterCity Hotel Berlin Hbf (my favourite), only 200m from Berlin Hbf's main entrance, relatively inexpensive with great reviews, or if you're in the money, the excellent 5-star Steigenberger Hotel just outside the station.  If you're on a budget, the cheaper 3-star Motel One Berlin-Hbf is behind the station or use www.hostelworld.com.  Of course, if you really want to push the boat out, the famous Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin is next to the Brandenburg Gate just 17 minutes walk away.

  • Day 3 for Warsaw:  Travel from Berlin Hbf to Warsaw Centralna in 5h30 on any EuroCity train you like, see the timetable here.

    On Mondays-Saturdays the 05:52 from Berlin Hbf will get you to Warsaw Centralna at 11:16 with breakfast in the restaurant car.  Or have a leisurely breakfast and take the daily 09:51 arriving 15:22.  By all means take a later train to have a morning in Berlin.

    Fares start at €27.90 in 2nd class or €39.90 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

    Book at int.bahn.de and print your own ticket or show it on your laptop or phone.

  • Day 3 for Krakow, Katowice, Wroclaw:  Travel from Berlin to Krakow by air-conditioned EuroCity train Wawel, leaving Berlin Hbf at 10:52 every day, arriving Wroclaw 14:50, Katowice 16:58 & Krakow Glowny 18:01.  The Wawel is comfortable & air-conditioned with restaurant car, treat yourself to lunch and a beer or two.

    Fares start at €27.90 in 2nd class or €39.90 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

    Book at int.bahn.de and print your own ticket or show it on your laptop or phone.

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Spain to Vilnius, Riga, Tallinn

  • Step 3, for onward travel from Vilnius to Riga, see here.

  • Step 4, for onward travel from Riga to Tallinn, see here.

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Spain to Kyiv, Lviv & Ukraine
The Vienna-Kiev sleeping-car at Kiev Pass

The Vienna-Kyiv sleeping-car at Kyiv Pass.  Photos courtesy of Helmut Uttenthaler.

Sleeper to Kiev about to leave Vienna   Ukrainian sleeper corridor   1, 2 or 3 bed Ukrainian sleeper compartment

The Vienna-Kyiv sleeper about to leave Vienna Hbf. Courtesy of Helmut Uttenthaler.

 

The sleeper corridor.  Courtesy Helmut Uttenthaler.

 

1, 2 or 3 bed sleeper compartment.

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Spain to Moscow, St Petersburg & Russia

There is currently no service to Russia from anywhere.

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Spain to Athens & Greece
  • Step 2, travel from Milan to Athens as shown on the Italy to Athens page.

    You travel from Milan to Bari by train, then sail overnight from Bari to Patras in Greece.  A bus/train combo gets you to Athens early evening (day 4 from Spain).

Superfast ferry from Bari to Patras in Greece

The ferry Superfast II from Bari to Patras, boarding at Bari.  Photos courtesy of DiscoverByRail.com.

Boarding the ferry from Italy to Greece   Lounge and reception desk on the ferry to Greece

The passenger gangway, onto the ferry.

 

Reception desk & lounge on the ferry.

Lounge & bar on the ferry from Italy to Greece   Self-service restaurant on the ferry from Italy to Greece

Lounge and bar on the Superfast II.

 

Self-service restaurant.

En suite toilet & shower on ferry to Greece   Cabin on ferry from Italy to Greece

Private cabin with en suite toilet & shower.

Scenic views from the ferry from Italy to Greece

The ferry passes Cephalonia & Ithaca then approaches mainland Greece.  This is what travel to Greece should be like!

The ferry from Bari arrives at Patras

The ferry approaches the new port of Patras.

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Spain to Istanbul & Turkey

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Railbookers custom-made tours

If you just want to buy train tickets at the cheapest price, book online as shown on this page.  However, if you want someone to sort out your whole trip for you, arranging all your trains, hotels and transfers, and to look after you if anything affects your arrangements, talk to Railbookers.  Railbookers can custom-make a train trip around Europe to your own specification.  Just tell them what you want and they'll advise you on the best trains, routes & hotels.  They get good reports and a lot of repeat business!  They now have offices in the UK, North America and Australia.

UK flag  UK call 0207 864 4600, www.railbookers.co.uk.

US flag  US call free 1-888-829-4775, see website.

Canadian flag  Canada call free 1-855-882-2910, see website.

Australian flag  Australia call toll-free 1300 971 526, see website.

New Zealand flag  New Zealand call toll-free 0800 000 554 or see website.

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Find hotels in Europe

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search: www.booking.com

Booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally use it to book all my hotels in one place.  I've come to trust booking.com's review scores, you won't be disappointed with any hotel that scores 8.0 or more.  Crucially, booking.com usually lets you book with free cancellation, which means you can confirm accommodation risk-free before train booking opens and/or you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when planning a trip.  I never book hotels non-refundably!

Tip:  It's sometimes worth comparing prices across multiple hotel booking sites:  HotelsCombined.com compares hotel prices on Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia, Agoda & many others.  If there's not much in it, I prefer to keep all my bookings together at www.booking.com, but it's sometimes worth checking!

Backpacker hostels

  • www.hostelworld.com:  If you're on a tight budget, don't forget about backpacker hostels.  Hostelworld offers online booking of cheap private rooms or dorm beds in backpacker hostels in most cities at rock-bottom prices.

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Travel insurance & VPN

 

Staysure travel insurance

 

Columbus Direct logo

Always take out travel insurance

Never travel overseas without travel insurance from a reliable insurer, with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover.  It should also cover cancellation and loss of cash and belongings, up to a sensible limit.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheaper than several single-trip policies even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy with Staysure.co.uk myself.  Here are some suggested insurers.  Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links.

UK flag  www.staysure.co.uk offers enhanced Covid-19 protection & gets 4.7 out of 5 on Trustpilot.

UK flag  www.columbusdirect.com is also a well-know brand.

US flag  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

 

Maya.net logo

Get an eSIM with mobile data package

Don't rely on WiFi, download an eSIM with a mobile data package for the country you're visiting and stay connected.  Most newer mobile phones can download a virtual SIM card so you don't need to buy a physical SIM, including iPhone 11 & later, see device compatibility listMaya.net is a reliable eSIM data retailer with a 4.5 out of 5 Trustpilot rating and a range of packages including unlimited data.

 

Curve card

Curve card

Get a Curve card for foreign travel

Most banks give you a poor exchange rate, then add a foreign transaction fee on top.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, £500 per month at time of writing.  The money you spend on your Curve card goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.

How it works:  1. Download the Curve app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to the UK and most European addresses.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app, you can link up to two cards with the free version of Curve, I link my normal debit card and my normal credit card.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, exactly like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance in your own currency onto whichever debit or credit card is currently selected in the Curve app.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I have a Curve Blue card myself, it means I can buy a coffee on a foreign station on a card without being stung by fees and lousy exchange rates, just by tapping the Curve card on their card reader.  The money goes through Curve to my normal debit card and is taken directly from my account (in fact I have the Curve card set up as payment card on Apple Pay on my iPhone, so can double-click my phone, let it do Face ID then tap the reader with the phone - even easier than digging a card out).  I get a little commission if you sign up to Curve, but I recommend it here because I think it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card, they'll give you £5 cashback through that link.

 

Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  Why you need a VPN

When you're travelling you often use free WiFi in public places which may not be secure.  A VPN encrypts your connection so it's always secure, even on unsecured WiFi.  It also means you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geoblocking which a surprising number of websites apply.  See VPNs & why you need one explainedExpressVPN is a best buy with a 4.7 out of 5 Trustpilot ranking which I use myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with expressvpn.com using the links on this page, you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription.  I get a small commission to help support this site.

 

Anker Powerrbank

Carry an Anker powerbank

Tickets, reservations, vaccination records and Interrail or Eurail passes are often held digitally on your mobile phone, so it's vital to keep it charged.  I always carry an Anker powerbank which can recharge my phone several times over if I can't get to a power outlet.  Buy from Amazon.co.uk or from Buy from Amazon.com.

 


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