Having taken over 71 trains in all of Europe with the Eurail Global Pass over the past three months, I consider myself pretty knowledgeable on how trains work, which ones are good, and which ones are plainly bad.

So, while many train companies offered pretty exceptional train rides, none of them offered the “perfect” train (even though a few came extremely close). 

So, why don’t I create what I think would be the perfect European train by picking the best of all the rail companies?

Eurail Travel
My route through all of Europe with the Eurail Global Pass.

So, this is what my perfect European train would look like:

  • It would have BIG panoramic windows like some of the Swiss SBB trains to let you appreciate the beautiful landscape, which in their case, includes the Alps!
  • It would go as fast as the Italian FrecciaRossa trains of TrenItalia. The fastest I traveled was 300 km/hr!  When you go from Milan to Rome in three hours, that’s fast!  Spain’s AVE came as a close second place in speed. (In reality, the AVE, the German ICE, and the French TGV are faster, with the TGV being the fastest in Europe with up to 321 km/hr, but on the routes I took, the fastest was FrecciaRossa)
Trains
The FrecciaRossa Train
  • It would have FREE wi-fi like the Norwegian Vy trains (even the regional trains!). Seriously, all these other countries should catch up on their wi-fi. FrecciaRossa also had wi-fi, but it was not free.
  • It would have the route from Oslo to Trondheim, from Zagreb to Split, and from Vienna to Innsbruck, which had the most beautiful sceneries that included snowcapped mountain ranges, waterfalls, rivers, endless greenery, lakes, small beautiful villages, and lots of farms. In my opinion, these were the most impressive, varied, and inspiring sceneries I saw from a train while in Europe.
The view of the alps from the train
The view of the Alps from the train from Vienna to Innsbruck, Austria.
  • It would have the customer service from Spain’s RENFE.  Ok, this one really, really surprised me.  But, the Spanish were the friendliest with their customer service, both on the train and on the station while making my reservation. (Update: It has been brought to my attention that the Spanish customer service actually sucks. Well, as I said, I was really surprised by the exceptional service. Maybe I was lucky. So, I will nominate a good runner-up, which is Norway’s Vy.)
  • It would have the hotel-like sleeper cabin from the TrenHotel (created by Spain’s RENFE), which runs in Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, and Switzerland.  This little cabin does compare to a small, but nice hotel room.
TrenHotel second class cabin
My second-class cabin at the TrenHotel sleeper train from Madrid to Lisbon.
  • It would have the online service and route selection from Germany’s Bahn. The Bahn does connect you with almost all European countries. And now they have a very useful planning app that can help you with timetables and routes in almost all of Europe! They do make planning summer weekend getaways in Europe a breeze!
  • It would serve the snacks served in the FrecciaRossa in Italy.  Ok, this is only for first-class, but they were nice dolce o salato snacks with a drink.
  • It would show you the conductor’s cabin view like the trains from the Netherlands. Actually, is a Bahn train, but I took it from the Netherlands to Germany. How fun is it to see the conductor doing his job and to see the track in front too?! It’s the closest you can get to operate a train!
Train from Netherlands
Watching the conductor do his magic.
  • It would have the interior design of the Italian FrecciaRossa, the French SNCF, and the German Bahn. These three are all different, but they do an effort to make your journey more pleasant with a well-designed environment (mostly on first-class).
TrenItalia train
The interior of the FrecciaRossa, first class.
  • It would have the most comfortable first-class seats like the Italian FrecciaRossa, and second-class seats like the French SNCF.
  • It would make buying a ticket as fun as the Norwegian train going to Hell.
  • It would have free reservations like the Greek TrainOSE trains.
  • And last but not least, it would depart from these beautiful and interesting train stations:  Keleti Railway Station in Budapest, Liège-Guillemins in Liège, Milano Centrale in Milan, Gare du Nord in Paris, and Estação do Oriente in Lisbon.
Liège-Guillemins in Liège
Liège-Guillemins in Liège, Belgium

Overall, I would have to say that if I had to pick one or two favorite trains, they would be a tie between the Norwegian Vy and the Italian FrecciaRossa.

Now, have you traveled by train in Europe?  How was your train and train ride? 

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24 Comments

  1. I’m so jealous that you’ve traveled so much by train! It’s my favorite way to travel and yet I’ve only been on a couple of trains in my life. Loved this post!

    1. Thanks, Andi! I too love traveling by train. Many times it is so nice to meet and chat with the people sitting next to you, they are often pretty comfortable, and more often than not, the view is impressive! I do encourage you to travel by train next time in Europe!

  2. Great post, Norbert! This post makes me want to jump on a train and wile my days away throughout Europe!

    I haven’t done nearly as much European train travel as I’d like (I’m a cheapie who usually goes for the bus), but I did do the Innsbruck to Vienna route as well and it was ABSOLUTELY GLORIOUS.

    1. Thanks, Kate! Right! That ride form Vienna to Innsbruck is gorgeous!! I remember getting really excited when I started seeing the snow capped mountains, the greenery, and the small villages all along the Alps.

  3. Totally agree with everything except for Spain. I have done the 3 month eurail pass as well around most of europe, and I have been living abroad in Spain for years, and dealing with renfe is an absolute nightmare. Their customer service by phone and online is nonexistent, and in the station can be awful, especially in madrid with huge lines. Their website has all sorts of problems trying to buy tickets without spanish credit cards, and you can’t search transfers, the trains are late a lot and sell out fast and are really overpriced, just to name a few. It looks like you did mostly international and AVE trains in Spain, which is probably why you had good service, but trust me, it’s not like that most of the time.

    Anyways, I did the innsbruck-vienna route in 2007 and it was breathtaking! I wish I had taken the train from zagreb to split, instead I went for the bus! Next time 🙂

    1. Hi Liz! Oh wow, apparently I lucked out with Spain. Well, like I said before, I was really surprised with their service as I was not expecting anything close to it. I actually made an updated comment on the post stating that and also nominated a good runner up… Norway!

      That Innsbruck to Vienna route is one that should not be missed when in Austria. Yes, next time I do recommend you to take the Zagreb to Split train. I loved it!

  4. I love travelling by train. It’s a great way to get around and see the countryside between places. I’ve only been on European trains in Italy, but I was quite impressed. 300kph is mighty fast!

    1. That’s one of the things I love the most about train travel… you get to see the places in between, that you normally wouldn’t visit or lay an eye on. I traveled a lot in Italy by train and loved it! Oh yes, 300km/hr is pretty fast!

      1. Love trains myself but the old-fashioned kind that amble along the country side around 50 mph. 300 km/hr is too fast! How can you see anything or enjoy the experience with it being so fast?

        1. Haha… true, you don’t get to experience the countryside like with the slower trains, but these are more about the convenience of travel and schedule. I do agree with you, though, I prefer the slower ones when it comes to enjoying the scenery along the way.

  5. Love this! I’ve taken a few of these trains and definitely agree with you on some points. I actually quite liked the trains in Spain and Italy which I thought was surprising, because it seems the Northern Europeans are always giving them a hard time.

  6. Soon Turkey will have own trailway connected to Eurail with high speed trains from Bulgaria border to Istanbul(under the bosphorus) – Eskişehir – Ankara

  7. Very cool post! Amen on the Zagreb-Split route – SO pretty.

    I would add one more thing, though – air conditioning! Haha. After dying on a few trains in Romania and Bulgaria this summer, I appreciate that air con SO much more now.

  8. Now I want to go train-traveling through Europe too! Can’t imagine a train NOT having panoramic windows – that’s the whole point of train travel, right? 🙂 Seeing the driver must have been fun. I remember being excited about seeing the pilot from my seat on a tiny plane inside New Zealand.

    1. Yes!! I highly recommend you to do that! Part of the point of traveling by train, like you said, is to enjoy the panoramas. So, when there are some seriously beautiful sceneries, you can expect the train to have bigger windows. Fun!!

  9. Hi there, I love your post!!! And I’m considering in between whether to buy the Eurail Pass or not because I don’t really know how to reserve seats online(for example renfe or SCNF does not give option for just seat reservation) can you give me some tips on how to reserve seats in Spain, France, Austria and Croatia? Thankssss

    1. Hi Jody –

      Unfortunately, not every site offers the option to reserve a seat online with the Eurail Pass. In those cases, you’ll have to go straight to the train station and reserve them there. That’s the way I did all of my reservations and it worked fine for all of the trains I took. Only one train was fully booked for Eurail Passes, but I was able to reserve on the next train.

  10. Atocha train station (Madrid) is the most beautiful and spectacular train station I´ve ever seen. I was there when I travelled to Cordoba a few years back. Came back to Madrid two years ago and the station is as beautiful and spectacular as I rememberd it.