All Aboard: 5 New Sleeper Train Options in Europe
Europe is experiencing a bit of a rail renaissance. Plan a trip now
Europe is more affordable now than it has been for 20 years, thanks to the favorable value of the euro to the dollar. In addition, travel by overnight sleeper train on the Continent is becoming more available than ever.
Sleeper trains are making a comeback after being sidetracked by low-cost airlines for nearly two decades, when cheap, intra-European flights essentially derailed train travel.
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Today, the decline of those budget airlines, along with factors including environmental concerns and government initiatives, have led to Europe experiencing something of a rail renaissance.
Overnight trains offer passengers notable benefits, including avoiding the hassle of airports and flight delays, reducing their carbon footprint and saving on hotel costs.
Here are five new services and/or routes that are providing more options than ever.
Leading the pack is the iconic Orient Express — of Agatha Christie fame — which will debut in Italy with six new trains. The service will start welcoming passengers in 2023 with itineraries that go beyond the legendary Paris-to-Istanbul route that started it all in 1883. The new Orient Express La Dolce Vita (not to be confused with Belmond’s Venice Simplon-Orient-Express rail service, a separate operation) will offer six scenic routes in 14 regions that explore Italy’s best landscapes, from the dramatic Alps to the bucolic countryside to the popular beaches.
In addition, three international itineraries will travel through eight countries, linking Rome to Paris, Istanbul and Split, Croatia. At stopovers in Rome, guests will even be able to check into the very first Orient Express hotel, Accor’s Grand Hotel de la Minerva, scheduled to open in late 2024.
Inspired by the glamour of Italy’s 1960s La Dolce Vita lifestyle, each sumptuously decorated train will have 12 deluxe cabins, 19 suites and a restaurant. Meals will feature chef-driven haute cuisine and award-winning Italian wines. Prices start at around $2,255 per person, per night.
In September, EuroNight service from Sweden-based SJ trains began carrying passengers from Stockholm to Hamburg, Germany, on a route that wasn’t even possible before the opening of the 5-mile-long Öresund Bridge 22 years ago. Passengers depart Stockholm Central at about 5:30 p.m. and arrive at the Hamburg-Altona station at 6:30 the next morning, ready to take on the day. From Hamburg, they have many options for rail connections to other European cities.
Overnight accommodations are available for every budget, from private sleeping compartments with their own bathrooms to shared couchettes with berths and carriages with seats, both with shared baths. Limited food and beverages are available on board. Prices start at around $47 for a couchette.
Take advantage of a growing network of overnight rail services to more than 28 cities in 14 countries on Nightjet, from Austria’s ÖBB Railway and various European partners, including EuroNight. Countries served on five cross-continental routes include Austria, Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland, expanding sleeper rail service throughout much of Europe.
Nightjet offers three overnight categories: a single, double or triple sleeper cabin with either a private wash basin or a full bath; a four- or six-berth couchette; and a six-seat carriage. The latter two come with shared carriage baths. A la carte breakfast is included with the sleeper cabin, and hot and cold food and snacks are available to all overnight passengers. Prices start at around $206 per night for a single cabin.
Start planning (and saving) for an upscale experience with Midnight Trains, set to launch in 2024. The French start-up intends to bring its next-generation carriages, with their sleek all-private sleeper cars, private baths and premium bedding, to 13 cities from its Paris hub. Destinations will include Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, Florence, Hamburg, Lisbon, Madrid, Milan, Porto, Rome and Venice. Travelers will board the train in Paris at 8:00 p.m. and arrive at their downtown destination the next morning, fresh and relaxed. The debut route will likely connect Paris to Milan and Venice, according to cofounder Romain Payet.
Rooms are configured for solos, duos, and even friends or family traveling together. Each train accommodates up to 350 passengers in comfort and style. Seasonally sourced meals, along with house cocktails, craft beers and wines, are served in the dining room, at the bar or in your room.
Midnight Trains’ aim is to offer an alternative that’s greener than flying and more comfortable than the basic night trains typical of Europe. Its full network will be up and running by 2030.
The new Belgian-Dutch rail carrier, European Sleeper, is looking to put travel by night train back on the map. In cooperation with Czech railway operator RegioJet, the new line plans service from Brussels to Prague by way of Antwerp, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Hanover, Berlin and Dresden. The carrier also plans to add a route from Amsterdam to the south of France. Launch dates for both services are still pending.
Award-winning travel writer Veronica Stoddart is the former travel editor of USA Today. She has written for dozens of travel publications and websites.