Brian and I just wrapped up an epic tour of Europe by train with eurail.com. The fun started in Barcelona, Spain and ended five weeks later in Budapest, Hungary.
Our route: Barcelona, Spain –> Caussade, France –> Paris, France –> Brussels, Belgium –> Bruges, Belgium –> Amsterdam, Netherlands –> Berlin, Germany –> Prague, Czech Republic –> Budapest, Hungary.
Many moons ago, Brian and I traveled to France and Italy for a two-week vacation. We also spent a two-day layover last Christmas in Germany. Otherwise, we hadn’t spent much time in Europe and we’d definitely never traveled across the continent by train. We weren’t sure what to expect, especially regarding travel details like making train reservations and how much time to allow for making train transfers (the answer, it turns out, is only about 5-10 minutes).
If you’ve traveled with a significant other perhaps you’ve noticed that nothing can cause a travel argument like the stress of the unknown. Learning how to travel in a new country and worrying about missing trains is a surefire way to get Brian and I barking back and forth at each other in no time.
So, to save you and your loved one an unnecessary argument, I’ve put together some essential tips to keep the stress at bay and ensure that you have a wonderful time traveling Europe by rail. (The good news is that it’s really easy).
Note that Brian and I traveled through Europe with the Eurail Global Pass. With this pass, we had access to the trains in 24 European countries. Our pass allowed us 10 travel days in a 2-month period.
What is a travel day?
A travel day is a 24-hour period from midnight to midnight. On each travel day you have access to the entire Eurail network of trains. You can ride the train as many times as you want (as many transfers as necessary) in one day and that counts as only one travel day. For example, on our trip from Paris to Brussels we transferred trains four times but the transfers all fell within a 24-hour period so we only used one of our ten travel days.
How do the Eurail passes work?
Eurail passes allow you to hop on and off many of Europe’s trains. It’s simple. Board the train of your choice with your Eurail ticket in hand.
Make sure you’ve written in the correct date in the space provided on your ticket here:
And write your route in the space provided as well:
When the ticket inspector comes around he will ask for your ticket. You’ll hand him your Eurail pass. The inspector will make sure that you’ve written in the correct date. He’ll punch your pass and move on. It’s as easy as that.
Where can I find information about the train schedules?
Information about train schedules is available online. But I recommend this amazing Eurail.com Rail Planner app that we used exclusively to find train schedules during our trip. The app is easy to use and works off-line, so no data or Internet connection is required. While you are in transit, the app even shows you the location of your train, so you never have to fear that you’ll miss your stop. Brian writes more about how to use the Rail Planner app on his site.
Do I need to make train reservations?
For most high-speed trains, international trains and night trains, reservations are required. You’ll know whether a reservation for the train you’d like to take is required or not because it will be marked as reservations compulsory on both the website and the app.
It’s important to note that reservation fees are not included in your Eurail passes, so you’ll have to pay those fees in addition to the cost of the pass. We found that the easiest way to secure a reservation was to make it directly at the train station. If you are traveling during peak season (May-September) it is important to make train reservations well in advance if they are required or recommended.
Learn more about making train reservations.
Where are the train stations located?
I was happy to learn that the train stations in all of the cities we visited were located right in the city center. This meant that we could ride the train to the middle of town and then walk to our hotel. Door to door service!
Which European cities are the most romantic? (Hey, this is a post about Eurail for couples after all).
Barcelona, Spain -Barcelona has a great vibe. It’s young and laid-back. The wine is cheap and you can walk everywhere. It’s romantic in the schools-out-for-the-summer kind of way. I loved it.
Paris, France- Paris is, of course, the most romantic city in the world. A tour with your main squeeze through Europe would not be complete without a stop in the city of romance. Brian and I spent our time strolling hand in hand through Christmas Markets, gardens and museums. Even in the dead of winter Paris maintains her charm.
The love locks bridge in Paris
Bruges, Belgium- When we mentioned to our waitress that we were headed to Bruges she said, “You are lovers so you will be happy there.” She was right. The historic center of Bruges is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with winding canals and medieval architecture. The town map even comes marked with “spots to kiss.” It was lovely.
Bruges, Belgium at night
Prague, Czech Republic- We’d never been to Prague before and were quickly swept away by the stunning grandeur of the city. It’s just gorgeous. The city suffered almost no damage during World War 2 so the old architecture, arched bridges, and town square impress in all their ancient glory.
Prague Old Town Square Christmas Market
The bottom line: train travel is romantic.
On our travel days, Brian and I would buy a bottle of wine (you can bring it onboard with you!) and sit side-by-side staring out of the window as our train whooshed by countryside pastures and cliff-side castles. Hours would pass and then, suddenly, the train would deposit us in one storybook city after another. There really is no place like Europe for romance. And the best way to see Europe is by train.
For more information about Eurail tickets visit eurail.com. You can also visit the Eurail.com Facebook page or connect with them on Twitter @eurail to ask questions and receive great travel information.
Our Eurail Global Passes were provided by eurail.com but the opinions above are my own. Many thanks to Eurail.com for helping us make our time in Europe a wonderful adventure.