6 of the best European train routes for summer 2024

Are you planning some European travel this summer? Me too. Getting from A to B by train has never felt so exciting, with a thrilling mix of new routes, classic journeys, and under-the-radar options to choose from.

Here are some of the most enticing European train journeys available for summer 2024. Some services kick in when summer timetables begin in June, while many are in operation now. Either way, it’s time to start planning!

1. There’s a new service linking the Baltic capitals

Lithuania has been quietly building up international rail connections in recent years. A cross-border service to Warsaw and Kraków in Poland began in late 2022, and since December last 2023, it has been possible to travel between two of the Baltic capitals by direct train. The journey north from Vilnius to the capital of Latvia, Riga, takes 4 hours and 15 minutes and runs daily, making it a competitive alternative to the bus. Booking in advance is recommended, though. This new route through the Baltics is a precursor to a hoped-for extension towards Tallinn which would link the three capitals. Back in Vilnius, connecting with an onward train to Kaunas is possible. 

How to book: Book online through LTG Link. Ticket prices start at €24.

A red train speeds through a station
The Iryo high-speed train routes now reach from Madrid and Barcelona to Andalucía © Ivan Marc / Shutterstock

2. Travel at high speed from Barcelona to Seville

Iryo, a recent entrant into Spain’s seemingly ever-expanding range of high-speed services, has established a foothold on the high-traffic Madrid to Zaragoza and Barcelona route. Its new offering extends from Barcelona and Madrid to the Andalucían cities of Córdoba and Seville, making the journey between the Catalan capital and Seville in 5 hours and 50 minutes. Using the same rolling stock as Trenitalia’s slick Frecciarossa trains, Iryo is also notable for an onboard food service that includes cheese and ham tapas and sustainably sourced Spanish wines to help the high-speed scenery flash past.

How to book: Tickets from €40 one way can be bought online through Iryo.

Summer tourists crowd a bridge over a river that leads to a hilltop castle on a sunny day
Snooze all the way from Brussels to Prague on the new European Sleeper route © Ratnakorn Piyasirisorost / Getty Images

3. Take the night train from Brussels to Prague

Europe’s night train revolution continues to reshape the experience of traveling across the continent. Only last year, there was no option to reach Prague from the west by sleeper. Now, there are options to lull you to sleep from Paris or Brussels to Berlin, then onto Prague by lunchtime. One approach is the thrice weekly Austrian Nightjet service from Paris and Brussels to Berlin, where you change trains for Prague. More conveniently, there is the privately run European Sleeper train on alternate nights, which takes you all the way. Don’t expect too many frills, though: this train consists of older carriages leased from various train companies around Europe. You will, however, travel directly to Prague with a friendly train crew and enjoy a time-efficient, continent-spanning journey. 

How to book: One-way tickets from Brussels to Prague on the European Sleeper start at €79 for seats, €109 for couchette space, €179 sleeper berth.

See more of Europe on the sleeper train. Here’s our guide to the best routes

An ornate station platform with Turkish flags hanging from the ceiling
A new light rail service now runs from İstanbul’s Sirkeci station, once the terminus for the Orient Express © Pavliha / Getty Images

4. Scoot along İstanbul’s Sirkeci seafront line

If ever a station was a shadow of its former self, it’s Sirkeci, sitting on the shores of the Bosphorus in İstanbul’s Sultanahmet district. Best known as the one-time terminus for the fabled Orient Express trains, Sirkeci lost its long-distance services in 2013. While the city bustles around Sirkeci, the ground-level platforms have sat unused since, while the underground Marmaray railway flashes underneath the old city bearing travelers from Europe to Asia. There’s life in old Sirkeci yet though. The opening of the new 5.2-mile light rail service to Kazlıçeşme restores trains to the original trainshed. In time, these renewed tracks may even see a return of Sofia- and Bucharest-bound services to the banks of the Bosphorus rather than their less convenient departure point at Halkalı, the western end of the Marmaray line. For now, this is an excuse for nostalgically-minded travelers to hop on a train from one of Europe’s most storied stations, perhaps for a seafood meal in lively Kumkapi, one of the stops on the new line.

How to book: A journey on İstanbul’s trains costs around €0.50. Find out more about transport within İstanbul with our guide to getting around.

A hilltop medieval town center by the sea with a central clock tower
A summer-only train service runs from Budapest in Hungary to Koper in Slovenia © iStockphoto / Getty Images

5. Ride the summer-only route from Budapest to Koper on Slovenia’s Adriatic

Some journeys are so perfectly made for hot weather that they only exist during Europe’s hottest months. Pulling out of Budapest’s Deli station – not to be confused with the more famous Keleti – the Citadella train noses its way every morning to the Slovenian border and onto the compact capital, Ljubljana. While the views on the Hungarian journey are less remarkable, the stretch of track running alongside the Sava River between Celje and Ljubljana introduces Slovenia’s natural beauty. Between June 16 and August 24, taking this train past the capital to Koper on the Slovene riviera is possible. Koper is home to a historic center stuffed with Venetian architecture and, combined with an unusual journey to get here, more than justifies being added to any central European plans this summer.

How to book: Tickets cost from €22 one way and can be bought on the MÁV website. 

6. Spend a month traveling Germany by train for just €49

One of the continent’s great travel deals can open up a host of slow journeys in Germany. For €49, travelers can purchase a Deutschlandticket for a month. The price includes regional and suburban (but not ICE or IC long-distance) services across Germany, plus buses, trams and subways. As well as covering urban exploration, this ticket is perfect for hopping around the Rhine and Moselle valleys, taking a tour of the Black Forest or exploring many of the Harz Mountain lines. It also opens up possibilities for some regional international services across borders. Even if you end up paying for the occasional inter-city service, you’ll still save money.

How to book: The Deutschlandtickets (€49 per month) are sold through the DB website, but they’re not aimed at visitors, so buying one as a non-German resident can be fiddly. See Seat61’s how-to for the latest guidance.

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