Summaries of how to make cross-border journeys by train in Austria, Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland
If you're considering exploring Europe by train, with or without a rail pass, this guide to the routes taken by direct international trains, should help that fabulous notion become a reality.
International train travel across continental Europe has a romantic aura, it still seems magical to me, having grown up in Britain that it's possible to travel through multiple countries on a single train journey.
Though only a tiny percentage of European trains are international and there are fewer border crossing points than you might expect.
As you'll discover below, some border crossings are only served by long-distance trains, while others only have local trains; most of which take short routes, which go no further than the town closest to a border.
There can also be big variations as to what happens when trains cross borders; so check the notes which you can jump to by using the content menu.
A couple of points to be aware of before you dive into the all the gorgeous info:
(1) All of the direct international express day and night trains have been included on the 'Trains From...' guides; all that's missing are a few, minor local routes that are unlikely to be used by tourists.
(2) Instead of producing 'Trains To...' guides, the appropriate 'Trains From' guides have been inserted, so that journeys can be be looked up when travelling in the opposite direction.
Though 99.9% of these journeys mirror each other, with matching trains also available in the opposite direction when travelling to a country.
That 0.1% is the train between Frankfurt (Main) and Milano, which takes an entirely different route when heading south through Switzerland, compared to its northbound journey.
(3) Every place that the trains call at hasn't been included on the route guides, the intention is to feature the locations which tourists are most likely to head to.
(4) There's no need to pay particular attention to the points at which the trains cross the borders, most express trains won't even call at the towns on either side of a border.
(5) The departure times have been taken from timetables, but treat them as a guide and confirm before travelling, as the typical schedule may be altered on your travel dates.
(6) Click on the city names (when available) to access even more useful info about specific journeys, such as; useful info on the stations, which trains are used, what to be aware of when booking tickets and which websites sell them.
These are the international express train rail routes of Europe, which have at least four trains per day year round; note that some trains have journeys extended, so serve other locations beyond the beginnings and endings of the routes listed:
London ↔ Paris
London ↔ Bruxelles
Bruxelles ↔ Koln - Frankfurt (Main)
Bruxelles - Antwerpen ↔ Breda - Rotterdam - Amsterdam
Bruxelles - Namur ↔ Luxembourg
Lille ↔ Gent - Antwerpen
Lille ↔ Namur - Liege
Paris ↔ Bruxelles - Antwerpen - Rotterdam - Amsterdam
Paris ↔ Bruxelles - Liege - Koln
Paris ↔ Luxembourg
Paris ↔ Frankfurt (Main) on different routes
Paris ↔ Basel - Zurich
Paris ↔ Geneve
Paris ↔ Torino - Milano
Nimes - Montpellier - Perpignan ↔ Girona - Barcelona
Amsterdam - Utrecht - Arnhem ↔ Dusseldorf - Koln - Frankfurt (Main)
Amsterdam - Amersfoort ↔ Osnabruck - Hannover - Berlin
Hamburg ↔ Odense - Kobenhavn (four or more trains in summer only)
Kobenhavn ↔ Malmo - Stockholm
Kobenhavn ↔ Malmo - Goteborg
Goteborg ↔ Oslo
Berlin ↔ Poznan - Waszawa
Hamburg - Berlin - Dresden ↔ Praha
Praha - Brno ↔ Bratsislava - Budapest
Praha - Brno ↔ Wien - Graz
Praha - Plzen ↔ Regensburg - Munchen
Praha - Ceske Budejovice ↔ Linz
Munchen - Salzburg - Linz - Wien ↔ Budapest
Munchen - Innsbruck ↔ Bolzano - Verona
Munchen - Lindau ↔ St Gallen - Zurich
Frankfurt (Main) - Nurnberg - Regensburg ↔ Linz - Wien
Frankfurt (Main) - Stuttgart - Munchen ↔ Salzburg - Villach - Klagenfurt
Berlin - Frankfurt (Main) - Freiburg ↔ Basel
Koln - Freiburg ↔ Basel
Hamburg - Hannover - Frankfurt (Main) - Freiburg ↔ Basel - Zurich
Zurich ↔ St Anton - Innsbruck - Salzburg - Linz - Wien
Zurich - Lugano ↔ Como - Milano
Basel ↔ Milano; on different routes
Geneve - Lausanne - Brig ↔ Stresa - Milano
Many other routes have three or less trains per day
Some stations have particularly high numbers of direct trains to international destinations and from north to south they are:
*= only by night train
Hamburg Hbf to/from; Aarhus, Basel, Budapest, Bratislava, Chur, Innsbruck* Kobenhavn, Linz, Praha, Wien, Zurich
Bruxlles-Midi to/from: Amsterdam, Avignon, Frankfurt (Main), Lille, Linz* London, Luxembourg, Lyon, Koln, Marseille, Montpellier, Nimes, Paris, Rotterdam, Strasbourg, Wien*
Amsterdam Centraal to/from; Basel, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt (Main), Freiburg, Hannover, Innsbruck*, Linz*, London, Munchen* Paris, Wien*, Zurich*
Berlin Hbf to/from: Basel, Bern, Budapest, Bratislava,, Gdasnk, Interlaken, Krakow. Linz, Praha, Stockholm*, Warszawa, Wien, Wroclaw Zurich*
Warszawa Centralna to/from: Berlin, Budapest, Bratislava, Kiev, Praha, Wien
Koln hbf to/from: Amsterdam, Basel, Bern, Bruxelles, Innsbruck, Interlaken, Klagenfurt, Linz, Paris, Salzburg, Wien, Zurich
Frankfurt (Main) hbf to/from: Amsterdam, Basel, Bern, Bruxelles, Chur, Interlaken, Klagenfurt, Linz, Ljubljana, Lyon, Milano, Paris, Salzburg, Strasbourg, Wien, Zagreb, Zurich
Praha hln to/from: Berlin, Bratislava, Budapest, Dresden, Graz, Hamburg, Kosice, Krakow, Wien, Warszawa
Paris to/from: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Basel, Bruxelles, Frankfurt (Main), Koln, Lausanne, Liege, Linz*, London, Luxembourg, Milano, Munchen, Rotterdam, Stuttgart, Torino, Wien*, Zurich
Munchen Hbf to/from: Amsterdam*, Bologna, Budapest, Firenze*, Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, Ljubljana, Linz, Milan*, Paris, Praha, Roma*, Salzburg, Verona, Venezia, Wien, Zagreb, Zurich
Wien Hbf to/from: Amsterdam*, Bratislava, Berlin, Bucharest*, Budapest Bruxelles*, ClujNapoca, Dresden, Firenze*, Frankfurt (Main), Hamburg, Hannover, Koln, Krakow, Ljubljana, Milano*, Munchen, Nurnberg, Paris*, Praha, Roma*, Trieste, Venezia, Verona*, Warszawa, Zagreb, Zurich
Budapest to/from: Bratislava, Berlin, Bucharest, ClujNapoca, Dresden, Graz, Hamburg, Innsbruck, Kiev, Linz, Ljubljana, Munchen, Praha, Salzburg, Warszawa, Wien, Zagreb, Zurich
Basel SBB to/from: Amsterdam, Berlin, Dijon, Frankfurt (Main), Hamburg, Hannover, Koln, Milano, Paris, Stresa, Strasbourg
Zurich Hb to/from: Amsterdam*, Berlin*, Bratislava, Bologna, Budapest, Dijon, Frankfurt (Main), Genova, Graz, Hannover, Hamburg, Innsbruck, Koln, Linz, Milano, Munchen, Paris, Praha*, Salzburg, Venezia, Verona, Wien, Zagreb*
Milano Centrale to/from: Basel, Bern, Geneve, Frankfurt (Main), Lausanne, Lyon, Lugano Luzern, Munchen*, Paris, Wien*, Zurich
Venezia S. Lucia to/from: Geneve, Innsbruck, Lausanne, Lugano, Munchen, Wien, Zurich
The only international trains from the UK are the Eurostar trains to Belgium, France and now The Netherlands.
We summarise the direct routes taken by the Eurostar trains below, but if you want to travel from the UK by train beyond those three countries - this London to Europe guide will tell you all you need to know!
via The Channel Tunnel
According to the ticketing availability, the service level on the London <> Paris route will be operating around 40% of the usual departures for the time being,
On the London <>Bruxelles via Lille route, the number of departures is increasing to four per day from November 1st,
One of these London to Bruxelles departures,m the train at 11:04, travels beyond Bruxelles to provide the the direct link from London to Amsterdam via Rotterdam.
However, the seasonal direct London <> Marseille via Lyon and Avignon services will not be available in 2020.
Tickets are currently not available for journeys to and from Ashford or Ebbsfleet.
The usual service
Eurostar trains take these six routes:
(5) London* - Ebbsfleet - Ashford - Marne La Valléé for Disneyland Paris by e300 trains
Departs on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday year round and daily (usually) in school holidays.
We expect that those responsible for border controls across Europe, won’t appreciate us sharing specific details of our international journey experiences.
Though it may be stating the obvious to point out that taking an international European train, can inevitably be a different experience to making a domestic journey.
What is also true, is that there can be variations in how trains travel across borders, which seems to have little to do with whether countries have signed up to the Schengen agreement.
When making an international train journey in Europe you will encounter one of these five scenarios.
(1) The journey will in fact be little different to a domestic journey, no announcements will be made be made on the train when a border crossing occurs; and you won’t be aware of any immigration or customs staff on the train.
You won’t be asked to show your passport either prior to boarding, or during the journey.
You will therefore travel seamlessly from one country to another and the only thing that will alert you to the fact that you’ve crossed a border, will be your mobile devices connecting to new service providers.
(2) Border staff will carry out checks while the train is in transit.
In this scenario you MAY be randomly singled out for additional checks and questioning to do with your travel plans and the amount of currency you have with you etc.
If this happens to you, try to avoid wondering why some of your fellow passengers haven’t even been asked to show their passports.
This random checking is no doubt an effective strategy, so just politely accept whatever scenario you find yourself encountering; and don’t question why it’s occurring.
(3) Checks will be carried out at the border station(s)
The train will stop at the last station before a border and/or the first station after a border.
Border control staff will then board and pass through the train, before it leaves the station.
In this scenario, most, or all passengers, will have to show their passports and answer questions about their journey; and some of the border staff may have dogs.
(4) If you leave or join train at a station on either side of a border, you may have to pass through passport and customs controls at the station.
So give yourself extra time to board a train, in case you do encounter this scenario, don’t assume that a train will wait for you because you’re still in a queue for passport control.
(5) All passengers may have to leave the train to pass through border control.
This scenario will likely not be apparent, when you book tickets, look up the journey details or board the train.
It’s also not a very common scenario, but you should be aware to the possibility that it may occur.
When it is happening announcements will be made on board, alerting travellers to the fact that you need to leave the train.
However, these announcements may not be made in English, so if when a train stops at a station near a border, virtually all of your fellow travellers gather their belongings and leave the train, don’t assume that they’ve reached their final destination.
Find a fellow traveller who can explain what’s occurring.
Also you may, or may not, re-board the same train, but regardless of that, you’ll need to take all your belongings with you.
You may need to board a bus, which will convey you across a border, and take you to the first station on the other side.
If you will be travelling in a sleeping cabin on an international night train, the usual scenario is that your hand your tickets and passports to the attendant who manages the sleeping cars, when you board the train.
Meaning that when/if border checks are carried out in the middle of the night, the sleeping car attendant will deal with the border staff on your behalf; leaving you to sleep on in your bed.
If you’re travelling in a couchette, you may retain your passport and tickets, you definitely will if you will be travelling in a seat.
When you retain your ticket and passport, you can be woken in the middle of the night, in order to speak to the border control staff.
And on some borders in eastern Europe all passengers have to leave and then re-board the train in order to pass trough passport control and customs, no matter at what time of night the train arrives at the custom check point.
I wanted to share my passion for train travel and explain how anyone can take the fantastic journeys I have taken.
This is one of more than 100 train travel guides available on ShowMeTheJourney, which will make it easier to take the train journeys you want or need to make. As always, all images were captured on trips taken by ShowMeTheJourney.