The Easiest European Countries to Explore by Rail

If you’re looking for the easiest European countries to explore by rail, it’s important to remember that some countries are more hassle-free to explore than others. Although some of the best travel memories emerge out of the most trying situations, it’s also true that sometimes you just want things to go right. If you’re looking for the easiest European countries by rail, answer the following questions:

  1. Where do you want to go and what do you want to see?
  2. How extensive is the country’s rail network?
  3. How often do trains run?
  4. Are there easy international rail connections?
  5. Does the country have high-speed lines or slow trains?
  6. How advanced are the train sets and rail networks?

Trains are the best way to get around most European countries, but these four regions tick all the boxes for easy rail exploration.

Easiest European countries by rail

1. Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg)

Easiest european countries by rail | Taking during blue hour, the Erasmus bridge in Rotterdam, with in the background the De Rotterdam building on the Wilhelminapier

The Benelux is counted as one country in Eurail Passes. Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg are among the easiest and most reliable countries to explore by train. The region has the obvious advantage of being flat and compact, which makes quick transfers between major centers a breeze. It also has a comprehensive network that will help you explore most corners of this fascinating part of the continent.

Trains in the Benelux region are reliable, punctual, and generally offer incredible service. There are high-speed connections between major cities, easy to follow linear and circular itineraries, as well as international connections to the likes of France, Germany, and even Great Britain.

Eurail Pass recommendations: If you’re just planning on taking trains between the three countries, a Eurail Benelux Pass represents the best value. If you want to venture outside the region, consider picking up a Two, Three or Four Country Select Pass.

Reservations: You don’t need any reservations for regional trains within Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Reservations are optional for EuroCity and ICE trains, and compulsory for TGV, Eurostar and Thalys trains.

Recommended itinerary: Amsterdam – The Hague – Rotterdam – Bruges – Ghent – Brussels – Luxembourg City

2. Switzerland

Easiest european countries by rail | Beautiful Mountain Lake in Switzerland with snowy peaks in the background

It should come as no surprise to see Switzerland on a list of the easiest European countries by rail. Considering how mountainous this beautiful little country is, its reputation for stellar rail transportation networks is no mean feat.

The rail network is Switzerland is vast and likely the most punctual and reliable on the continent. Though the alps may increase the length of some journeys, you always know what to expect on a Swiss train – be it private, domestic, or international. Most routes also have the added benefit of being painfully scenic.

It’s easy to follow a linear or circular route through Switzerland that gets you to the top attractions. You can also venture off and explore one of the neighboring countries.

Eurail Pass recommendations: A Eurail Pass can help you avoid hefty charges of point-to-point tickets. There are Two, Three or Four Country Eurail Select Passes between Switzerland and her neighbors, but if you’re traveling further, the Eurail Global Passes is a good option.

Reservations: You can travel on trains through most of Switzerland without making reservations. You won’t need reservations for SBB regional trains. It’s recommended that you make reservations for any InterCity and ICN trains on during busy summer months and on public holidays, though it’s not compulsory. Some private and high-end scenic trains require additional fees or reservations.

Recommended itinerary: Geneva – Interlaken – Lucerne – Chur – Tirano (Bernina Express)

3. Austria

Easiest european countries by rail | Grünau im Almtal, Österreich - At the foot of a mountain, on a winter day

Although many believe Switzerland to have the most advanced trains in Europe, you’ll be hard-pressed to find better rail service and trains than those in Austria. Some trains, such as the polished RailJet collection, have leather seats, at-seat service, and even monitors that indicate your location, speed, and time of arrival – updated to the minute.

This is one of the easiest European countries by rail. Austria has plenty of connections to neighboring countries. It also has good regional connections that can get you to, or very close to, all of top attractions. The busy West-East route runs as a main artery through the width of the country. Several high-speed trains use this line, and the clean and generally punctual regional trains spread out from stations all along this route.

Eurail Pass recommendations: If you’re only focusing on Austria, you can pick up a Eurail Austria Pass. If you intend traveling to neighboring countries, a Eurail Select or Global Pass represents better value and flexibility.

Reservations: You can travel on most Austrian trains without a reservation, apart from night trains and on some international routes. We recommend making reservations between May and September if you want to ensure a seat on a busy route.

Recommended itinerary: Vienna – Graz – Klagenfurt – Salzburg – Innsbruck

4. Germany

Easiest european countries by rail | Frankfurt, Germany financial district skyline

Like its other Western European counterparts, Germany has a vast rail network that makes it a dream to get around by train. You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to both regional and international connections. Trains in Germany get to most places where a rail traveler would want to go, and usually in comfort and bang on time.

There are several trains that service various routes, including regional, intercity, high-speed, and night trains. Germany’s central location also makes it a great country to begin or end a rail trip. It’s surrounded by equally enticing destinations that are easy to get to by rail.

Eurail Pass recommendations: If you plan to spend the bulk of your time in and around Germany, pick up a Select Pass. If you want to travel further afield, consider a Global Pass.

Reservations: Most trains in Germany don’t require advance reservations, though it’s advised for ICE and ICE Sprinter trains during peak periods. Some international connections and all night trains require advance reservations.

Recommended itinerary: Frankfurt – Cologne – Hamburg – Berlin – Dresden – Munich

Each European country is worth exploring. But if you’re looking for a seamless rail experience, then pick up a Eurail Pass and stick to those countries with fast connections, clean trains, and comprehensive networks.

More info about the easiest European countries by rail:
Brussels to Luxembourg by train
The best things to do in Vienna
How to tackle Switzerland on a budget