Travel tips

Top 5 European countries to visit by train

By Zuzana Hajska | Marketing Officer at ICE

Thinking about taking a city break but conscious of your carbon footprint? If ditching air travel is one of your goals for 2020, we've got some good news for you. Travelling by train is a more affordable, environmentally friendly way of travelling around Europe. Hop on a direct high-speed train leaving from the centre of London, sit back and enjoy the fantastic views as the train dashes through the beautiful European countryside and fairylike towns. 

Swapping to a train has a number of benefits, on top of being much better for the environment. 

  • Speed of travel – if you’re travelling to a city like Bruges or Paris from London, the train journey is actually quicker than flying when you consider airport transfers and check-in time
  • Saves you cash - with train stations conveniently located right in the city centres, you can ditch expensive airport taxis and start exploring straight away
  • No luggage/liquid restrictions – no need to worry about packing small toiletries or having to ditch your drink going through security  

To help you plan your trip to Europe, here’s our pick of the top 5 countries that are easily accessible by train and won't break the bank either.

Netherlands 

With winding canals, colourful tulips and masterpiece-rich museums, the Netherlands is one of the top destinations to visit this spring.

You can forget about stressful airports and hop on a high-speed Eurostar train that can take you to the Netherlands in just under four hours. The train leaves every few hours from St Pancras International Station and offers extra services such as hot food when booked in advance.

Amsterdam

  • How long is the train journey from London to Amsterdam? 3 hours 50 minutes 
  • London St Pancras International to Amsterdam CS: return train tickets from £113*

Rotterdam

  • How long is the train journey from London to Rotterdam? 3 hours 15 minutes
  • London St Pancras International to Rotterdam Centraal: return train tickets from £100*

*Prices quotes on the Eurostar website, April 2020

France 

Taking the Eurostar train from London to Paris is extremely popular and for a good reason. You can exchange the bustling streets of London for Parisian tiny cafes and romantic views over the Eiffel Tower in under two and a half hours, with train tickets often cheaper than low-cost flights.

The Eurostar train leaves from London St. Pancras every few hours and doesn't only stop in the French capital. You can go on a family trip to Paris Disneyland or wander around the book markets and local brasseries of Lille until it’s time to catch the train home again. Perfect!

Paris

  • How long is the train journey from London to Paris? 2 hours 16 minutes 
  • London St Pancras International to Paris Gare du Nord: return train tickets from £68*

Paris Disneyland 

  • How long is the train journey from London to Disneyland Paris? 4 hours 20 minutes 
  • London St Pancras International to Disneyland Paris (Chessy/Marne-La-Vallée): return train tickets from £87*

Lille

  • How long is the train journey from London to Lille? 1 hour 40 minutes 
  • London St Pancras International to Lille Europe: return train tickets from £58*

*Prices quotes on the Eurostar website, April 2020

Switzerland 

You might have not thought of Switzerland as a destination that can be visited by train, but it's definitely one to be considered if you have time on your hands and enjoy spectacular scenic views. For business as well as leisure, travelling to Switzerland by train through Paris is growing in its popularity.

With generous baggage allowance and budget-friendly ticket prices, you can be enjoying melted raclette cheese in Zurich or strolling down one of the most beautiful skiing towns in the world, St. Moritz, in under eight hours. 

Zurich 

  • How long is the train journey from London to Zurich? 7 hours 45 minutes
  • London St Pancras International to Zurich HB: return train tickets from £105*

St. Moritz

  • How long is the train journey from London to St. Moritz? 12 hours 20 minutes
  • London St Pancras International to St. Moritz: return train tickets from £148*

*Prices quotes on the Eurostar website, April 2020

Germany 

Taking the train from London to Berlin might not be the speediest way to travel but with fewer luggage restrictions, more comfortable seating and plenty of stunning European countryside to spot along the way, Germany is a strong contestant on our list. The German train network is vast and well-connected, so it is not a problem to pop over from Berlin's iconic landmarks to Cologne's chocolate museums in no time. 

And if the journey does get a bit too long, you can turn in it into an extra part of your trip and stay a night in Brussels along the way.

Cologne

  • How long is the train journey from London to Cologne? 4 hours 10 minutes
  • London St Pancras International to Köln Hbf: return train tickets from £53*

*Prices quotes on the Trainline website, April 2020

Berlin

  • How long is the train journey from London to Berlin? 9 hours 10 minutes 
  • London St Pancras International to Berlin Hbf: return train tickets from £112*

*Prices quotes on the Trainline website, April 2020

Belgium

Only three and a half hours away from London by train, Belgium tops our list as one of the best destinations for a city break. In fact, taking a train to Belgium is far more superior than flying as it is less hassle, cheaper and overall more comfortable.

You can start in Brussels, wandering around UNESCO World Heritage sites and boutique chocolatiers, before moving to the picturesque cobbled lanes and romantic canals of Bruges. And the best part? You can buy train tickets from London to Brussels and also use them for any other Belgian train station for 24hrs from the time your Eurostar arrives in Brussels. 

Bruges

  • How long is the train journey from London to Bruges? 3 hours 20 minutes  
  • London St Pancras International to Bruges: return train tickets from £78*

*Prices quotes on the Eurostar website, April 2020

Brussels 

  • How long is the train journey from London to Brussels? 2 hours 20 minutes    
  • London St Pancras International to Brussels Midi: return train tickets from £78*

*Prices quotes on the Eurostar website, April 2020

Looking for more ways of travelling sustainably? Check out our guide to eco-friendly tourism before you go. 

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