10 night trains you want to be on at midnight
If you’ve never done it before, spending the night aboard a train might seem a bit odd. For most, the driving factors for train travel in Europe is the scenery, which you obviously can’t see when the sun goes down. For others, it’s about getting to the destination as quickly as possible – which means taking the express train connections Europe is famous for.
But anyone who’s been aboard a train after midnight, even if it’s a local connection on the way home from a party, will tell you that there’s a special charm to spending a night on a train.
Overnight trains operate at a different pace. They usually feature comfortable cabins that allow you to fall asleep to the rhythmic clicking of the railway tracks, and wake up to the sunrise in a brand new city. And even if you’re not spending the full night on the tracks, some midnight trains offer other unique experiences worth seeking out.
Paris to Venice
If the thought of traveling between the two most romantic cities in Europe, in the most romantic way possible, is high on your bucket list, then look no further than the Thello sleeper train.
It leaves Paris shortly after 7 pm in the evening, and arrives in Venice shortly after 9.30 the next morning. Although it’s a tranquil journey that’ll likely have you bedding down well before midnight, if you’re still up when the clock strikes 12 you’ll be moving somewhere between France and Italy.
There are several sleeping options available, with 4-bed and 6-bed compartments, and if you’re set on having one all to yourselves, you can also book out the other beds.
The Dogu Express
This is the Turkish train of the moment, thanks to its discovery by Instagrammers who saw its photogenic potential. The Dogu Ekspressi, or Eastern Express, runs between Ankara and Kars over the course of approximately 24 hours. During peak months the tickets sell out well in advance, and young travelers board the train with fairy lights, photographs from home, bluetooth speakers, and a wide range of snacks and supplies.
Tickets for the journey are well-priced, and most people end up traveling in groups and booking out entire 4-berth compartments for themselves. Because of its popularity, the train often buzzes throughout the night with impromptu dance parties and get togethers, though there is no alcohol and a very small selection of food sold on board.
If you’re there for the more traditional night train experience, you can book a two-berth compartment for one or two people, and enjoy waking up to some remarkable Turkish scenery.
Prague to Kraków
The EuroNight sleeper from the Czech capital to Kraków in Poland is one of the more popular trains in Europe, owing to the vast distance that it covers between two unique countries. The trains are also cheap and comfortable, with air conditioning, WiFi, power sockets, and a fully equipped dining cart that serves drinks and snacks.
With some dining carts on this route even stocking beer on tap, it’s quite possible that this is one train ride that will keep you up well after midnight. It usually departs Prague shortly after 10pm, and will deliver you in Kraków bright and early, ready for a day of exploring.
Innsbruck to Cologne
The scenery from the trains that run between Austria and Germany is remarkable, making daytime travel preferable for most. But the efficient Nightjet sleeper train, that leaves the alpine city of Innsbruck shortly before 9pm, and arrives in Cologne after 8am the next morning, still offers up incredible views and is unsurprisingly efficient.
The train is comfortable and offers several sleeping options. Not all scenery is lost, either – it’s well worth setting an early morning alarm, usually around 6am, which is when you’ll be skirting the famous Rhine Valley between Mainz and Koblenz.
London to Fort William
There really is no better way to travel between England and Scotland than aboard the Caledonian Sleeper trains that link the English capital and several Scottish cities.
There are two long trains that travel through the night, leaving London every night but Saturday. These split during the night according to your end destination, delivering passengers to their chosen city by morning. The longest and most iconic of these trips will take you all the way from London to the picturesque town of Fort William, in the Scottish highlands, in total class and comfort.
Budapest to Prague
If you’ve ever stayed in a hostel in either Budapest or Prague, chances are you’ve seen some bleary-eyed travelers walking through the doors sometime around breakfast. That’s because there are 3 daily sleeper trains between these two cities, in both directions.
This has quickly become one of the most popular rail journeys on the continent. Not only does the trip transport you between two iconic cities in central Europe without the need to book a hotel, but it also is common to find dozens of other likeminded travelers on board looking to soak up the atmosphere of the long train ride.
The trains are comfortable, safe and efficient, and provided you manage to get some sleep on board, they’ll deliver you to either of the cities with a full day ahead of you.
Sofia to Istanbul
Many of the most historically romantic rail journeys started or ended in Istanbul. Although these days a lot of these routes are limited, one – the night train that connects Sofia with Istanbul – has recently reopened and as iconic as ever.
Although there is no dining cart on board, and you’ll need to pack your own supplies, the journey is surprisingly comfortable. The train leaves Sofia at 9pm and arrives in Istanbul before 8am. It features comfortable beds in air-conditioned compartments. The base fare for the journey is cheap, and if you want to travel in style, you can book a first class sleeper compartment for a small supplement.
Trondheim to Oslo
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The scenery on rail trips in Norway is the stuff of Instagram envy, and so traveling this journey during winter would be a waste if you’re after beautiful vistas. Travel aboard the train from Trondheim to Oslo in summer, though, and you’ll be treated to one of the northern hemisphere’s beautiful phenomenons – the midnight sun.
Though you may not get much sleep as you gawk out the window, the journey, which lasts several hours through the night, will treat you to sights of vast forests, pristine lakes, and dramatic mountains, all eerily illuminated by the late night sun.
Budapest to Split
Another popular summer train to consider is the one running between Budapest and Split, between the months of June and September.
The Hungarian train leaves Budapest shortly before 7pm and arrives in the coastal town of Split at 9am, circumventing what is otherwise a particularly long day journey at awkward hours. Of course, given that many people using this train are travelers heading for a summer holiday on the coast, you can expect the atmosphere on board to be vibrant, and to serve the perfect introduction to the Croatian coastline that awaits you.
Malmo to Berlin
If you like the thought of coasting along the tracks between Sweden and Germany, with a short leg aboard a ferry without you so much as having to disembark, then the Berlin Night Express is one train you’ll want to be on at midnight.
It’s a popular rail trip that runs sparsely in the summer months, so it’s important to reserve a seat well in advance. The entire journey takes less than 10 hours, and the comfortable train features everything you could want during a lengthy overland journey, including drinks and light meals served directly to your compartment.
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