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Europe by train: the ultimate three-week Interrail route guide

Ready for the adventure of a lifetime? This is everything you need to know about Interrailing in Europe, from which pass to get to which cities to see

Written by Chloe Dickenson
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Is there any better way to see Europe than by train? Picture the scenes: you’re dropped right in the centre of the continent’s best cities, where you can dine, party and sightsee to your heart’s content before choosing when and where you travel to next – without having to commit to specific flights or, crucially, putting up with busy airports. Plus, travelling by train means taking in some spectacular scenery (and maybe getting some shut-eye, if you opt for one of Europe’s sleeper trains).

While Interrailing in Europe is all about being spontaneous, you might need a little help planning your first trip – and we’re here to guide you through it.

What is Interrailing?

Interrailing is the process of travelling across Europe by rail using an international train pass.

The Interrail Pass (or Eurail Pass, if you’re coming from outside Europe) is one of the best ways to see as many different countries and cities in Europe as possible. In less than seven hours, you can get all the way from Amsterdam to Berlin, with the option to take the more scenic route so that you cover destinations such as Brussels, Paris, Milan and more.

How does Interrailing work?

With over 40,000 destinations across 33 countries in Europe, the Interrail Pass allows you to travel freely on almost all types of trains, from the Eurostar to the Deutsche Bahn in Germany and Italy’s Trenitalia.

There are several types of Interrail Passes to choose from, including the Interrail Global Pass and the Interrail One Country Pass. If you’re planning to travel to more than one country in Europe, it’s worth getting the Global Pass. You can then choose a pass that suits your itinerary. For example, ‘7 days within 1 month’ means (you guessed it) you can travel on seven days out of the month, while ‘15 days within 2 months’ will give you fifteen days of train travel over the course of two months, and so on. 

How much does Interrailing cost?

Each pass has a different price tag attached to it, starting at €194 for four days of travel in a month and going up to €711 for three months of unlimited travel. 

How long should I go for?

Three weeks is the perfect length of time for a first-time Interrailing adventure. Not only will you have plenty of time to travel between different countries and cities, but also to really experience the best bits of each place you visit.

Taking you from Amsterdam to Berlin by way of Belgium, France, Italy, Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic, we’ve put together the ultimate three-week Interrailing itinerary. You’ll explore some of Europe’s iconic cities, check off the key sites in all of them, stay in some of the continent’s best (and best-value) hotels and make memories to last a lifetime.

For this itinerary, we’d recommend the ‘10 days within 2 months’ pass – but feel free to take stops out or add stops in. After all, this is your once-in-a-lifetime gallivant through Europe. Godspeed!

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Europe Interrailing route guide

Days 1-3: Amsterdam
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Days 1-3: Amsterdam

Fuel up for your first day in Amsterdam with a hearty breakfast from Omelegg (opt for ‘The Italian Job’ if you’re feeling particularly peckish). Then do as the locals do and hire a bicycle – you can pick one up for 24 hours from Rent a Bike for €10.80. Cycle to the Anne Frank Museum (make sure to pre-book tickets online) and the Royal Palace before concluding the day with a visit to Sotto, one of the best pizzerias in the city.

On your second day, grab some takeaway pastries and sweet treats from Patisserie Holtkamp, then cycle along the canals towards Vondelpark, stopping at the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum for a spot of culture. Enjoy a picnic lunch in the park, then head on an interactive beer tour at the Heineken Experience. Go for burgers from The Butcher or Mumbai street food at Shirkhan inside Foodhallen for dinner.

READ MORE: A weekend in Amsterdam

Where to stay in Amsterdam

De Pijp is Amsterdam’s bustling Latin Quarter, full of brunch spots, breweries and food markets. With towering ceilings, generous windows and sleek furnishings, you could do better than booking a stay at the sophisticated Sir Albert Hotel.

READ MORE: The best neighbourhoods to stay in Amsterdam

Next stop… Brussels

From Amsterdam Centraal, it’s less than two hours via train to Bruxelles-Midi station. Trains run every hour until late evening. Reservations are required, even with the Interrail Pass, so book via the app before you travel; prices start at €24 for second-class seats.

Days 3-5: Brussels
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Days 3-5: Brussels

Once you arrive in the city, make your way to the Grand-Place to marvel at Brussels’s Town Hall. Just around the corner, you’ll find the infamous statue of a little boy urinating known as Manneken-Pis; once playing an essential role in the distribution of drinking water, the statue has now come to symbolise the spirit of the people of Brussels (seriously). Attend a Belgian Chocolate Workshop on Rue des Foulons before gorging on a hearty helping of frites from Fritland.

Start day two with a stroll through Parc du Cinquantenaire, continue to Parc de Bruxelles and admire the Royal Palace of Brussels. Science fanatics will relish a visit to the Atomium, now one of the most important and popular attractions in Brussels. For dinner, tuck into a traditional Flemish stew at 9 et Voisins.

READ MORE: The best things to do in Brussels

Where to stay in Brussels

Sweet tooth? Make a beeline for the Sablon neighbourhood in Brussels, which is choc-a-block with chocolate shops. Base yourself at the bright and breezy Moxy Brussels City Center, a perfect midrange hotel with pop art interiors. 

Next stop… Paris

The train from Brussels to Paris Gare du Nord runs every half an hour and takes less than 90 minutes. Seat reservations are required; prices start at €29 for second-class tickets.

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Days 5-7: Paris
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Days 5-7: Paris

No visit to Paris is complete without overindulging in baguettes, pastries and coffee and Baguett’s Café serves the goods and then some. From there, it’s just a short walk to the world-famous Louvre art museum; since you’re only here a few days, don’t miss the iconic ‘Mona Lisa’. Cross the Pont des Arts bridge, admire the facade of the Notre Dame cathedral and indulge in traditional French fare at Le Bistrot du Perigord in the Latin Quarter.

With pre-booked tickets, tick off one of the most iconic Parisian landmarks with a climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Collect macarons from the patisserie institute, Ladurée; do a spot of window-shopping in Galeries Lafayette Champs Elysées, then amble down the city’s most prestigious avenue to the Arc de Triomphe. If you’re not too claustrophobic, navigate part of the 300km (185-mile) network of underground tunnels known as ‘Les Catacombes’ before heading for a dinner of fondue, beef bourguignon or duck confit at Le Vieux Bistrot.

READ MORE: Your essential guide to sightseeing in Paris

Where to stay in Paris

Stay in Bastille for a vibe similar to the Marais, but one that comes with a more affordable price tag. Situated on the site of a former convent, Hôtel l’Antoine offers modern rooms with contemporary decor, while still keeping a tenacious hold on its fascinating roots.

READ MORE: The best neighbourhoods to stay in Paris

Next stop… Milan

It’s time to get the train to Milano Centrale which takes between seven-and-a-half and nine hours. The train usually departs from Gare de Lyon or Gare de l’Est and you’ll need to reserve a seat; prices vary from €25 to €44 for second-class seats.

Days 7-9: Milan
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Days 7-9: Milan

With a long day of travelling from Paris, you’ll arrive in Milan just in time for dinner at Pasta d’Autore. Then head to Teatro alla Scala for an evening performance at one of the most prestigious opera houses in the world; be sure to purchase tickets in advance.

Start your second day in Milan with a decadent hot chocolate from Venchi, followed by a visit to Castello Sforzesco and a wander through Parco Sempione. Equipped with pre-booked tickets, make your way to the iconic Duomo di Milano for an afternoon of sightseeing inside one of Europe’s most beloved cathedrals. Purchase rooftop tickets to enjoy views of the piazza below from the Duomo’s terraces, then prepare for an Italian feast at Da Zero.

READ MORE: The best things to do in Milan

Where to stay in Milan

The elegant yet artsy Brera district is perfect for travellers seeking a stay in one of the most picturesque neighbourhoods in the city. B&B Hotel Milano Duomo offers a no-frills, modest approach while still being warm, welcoming and well-decorated.

READ MORE: The best neighbourhoods to stay in Milan

Next stop… Venice

A short two-and-a-half-hour train ride – with €12 seat reservations – takes you directly from Milano Centrale to Venezia Santa Lucia.

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Days 9-11: Venice
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Days 9-11: Venice

For your first afternoon in Venice, enjoy one of the city’s quintessential experiences: a 30-minute gondola ride (with an €80 price tag) along the famous Venetian canals. Head to the Rialto Bridge in time for sunset and pick up a few trinket souvenirs from the boutique stalls. Visit L’Osteria di Santa Marina for dinner – make sure to try their homemade tortellini and scallop carpaccio.

Rise early to see Piazza San Marco and the Basilica in all its glory before the hoards of tourists descend, then board a local ferry for a day trip to Burano Island. Famed for its polychromatic houses, its narrow canals and the Lace Museum, Burano is a great destination to visit while in Venice. Try the local cuisine at Trattoria al Gatto Nero before heading back to Venice.

READ MORE: The best things to do in Venice

Where to stay in Venice

Located in the charming neighbourhood of Castello, close enough to St Mark’s Basilica but far enough away from the overwhelming crowds, Hotel Bisanzio is a stylish establishment kitted out in traditional Venetian decor.

READ MORE: The best neighbourhoods to stay in Venice

Next stop… Vienna

The train from Venezia Santa Lucia to Vienna Central Station can take anywhere from seven-and-a-half hours to eleven hours, with seat reservations required for certain routes.

Days 11-14: Vienna
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Days 11-14: Vienna

After a good night’s sleep, start your first full day in Vienna at the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Naturhistorisches Museum for a spot of culture, then continue to Hofburg Palace and Rathausplatz to admire the grand architecture. Jump on the U-Bahn to the breathtaking Belvedere Palace set in an elegant baroque park and discover over 800 years of art history inside the museum. After a traditional Viennese dinner of schnitzel, spätzle and tafelspitz at Pürstner, make your way to one of the most important theatres in the world, the Burgtheater, to enjoy a live performance.

If the weather permits on your second day in Vienna, journey to Prater: an amusement park with archaic rides and rollercoasters and a fantastic beer garden, Schweizerhaus. From there, you can stroll along the Danube River, loop past St Francis of Assisi Church and head back into the city centre for an evening of cocktails at art deco-inspired Kleinod.

READ MORE: The best things to do in Vienna

Where to stay in Vienna

Conveniently located in the Museum Quarter, 25hours Hotel is the place to stay in Vienna for eccentric decor, individually styled rooms and quirky features such as a photo booth and retro pinball machine. Plus the rooftop terrace has lovely views over the Austrian Parliament.

Next stop… Budapest

It’s time to head to Budapest. The direct train from Vienna Central Station to Budapest-Kelenföld Station takes less than two-and-a-half hours with no seat reservations required.

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Days 14-16: Budapest
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Days 14-16: Budapest

Begin your time in Budapest with a culinary exploration of the Central Market Hall, where you can dine on authentic Hungarian fare. Spend the afternoon touring the magnificent Hungarian Parliament Building; with almost 700 rooms and sensational gothic revival architecture, there’s a reason it’s Budapest’s main attraction. Finish off with a candlelit dinner cruise along the Danube.

Kick off day two in Budapest with a hike up to Fisherman’s Bastion to marvel at the views of the city from one of the seven turreted towers. Then ride the funicular down from Buda Castle, cross the Széchenyi Chain Bridge to the Pest side of the river and experience an afternoon of pure relaxation at the Széchenyi Thermal Bath. Drink and dine at the Intermezzo rooftop bar before retiring to your room.

READ MORE: The best things to do in Budapest

Where to stay in Budapest

A quarter of a mile from St Stephen’s Basilica, Hotel President has charming rooms, an on-site spa and, of course, a rooftop terrace with unforgettable views.

READ MORE: The best hotels in Budapest

Next stop… Prague

Get the 9.30am train from Budapest-Nyugati to Prague Hlavni Nadrazi for the shortest train journey (seven hours) and no transfers. Seat reservations of €6 are required on most routes.

Days 16-18: Prague
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Days 16-18: Prague

Finish off a day on the rails at Výtopna Railway Restaurant, a unique experience to be had on your first night in Prague, where trains on a miniature railway deliver your food and drink. It might be pretty touristy, but it’s worth it. 

Begin your first full day with a visit to Prague Castle, one of the largest castle complexes in the world; pre-book tickets in advance to avoid long queues. Explore the Malá Strana neighbourhood, check out the John Lennon memorial wall and cross over the picturesque Charles Bridge to the Old Town. Watch the mechanical workings of the Astronomical Clock and climb up the Old Town Hall for views of the Church of Our Lady before Týn and the square below, before dining on a Czechia feast at U Modré Kachničky II.

READ MORE: The best things to do in Prague

Where to stay in Prague

For an affordable base in romantic Malá Strana, Malostranská Residence is one of the most beautiful and highly-rated properties in the neighbourhood.

READ MORE: The best neighbourhoods to stay in Prague

Next stop… Berlin

You can get the train directly from Prague to Berlin Hauptbahnhof in just over four hours with no seat reservations required.

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Days 18-21: Berlin
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Days 18-21: Berlin

Start with a stroll through the lush grounds of Tiergarten, ending at the Reichstag Building, home to the German Bundestag (Parliament). From there, it’s just a short walk to the world-renowned Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie, famed for being the crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. Continue to the East Side Gallery to see the commissioned graffiti project created by over 100 artists and conclude with Italian, Turkish or German cuisine at Markthalle Neun.

Dedicate a morning to Berlin’s best museums. Visit the free Topography of Terror Museum, check out the oh-so-creepy Puppentheater Museum and learn the history of German Jews at the Jewish Museum. At Tempelhofer Feld, you can see where Nazi dive-bombers once took off; it’s now a peaceful and playful city park. If you don’t mind heights, head to the top of the Berliner Fernsehturm (TV tower) where you can take in a 360-degree view of the city. Treat yourself to a proper German beer and currywurst at Dicke Wirtin before calling it a night.

READ MORE: A weekend in Berlin

Where to stay in Berlin

The central borough of Mitte is the perfect place to base yourself for the key sights, and the Art’otel Berlin offers the perfect home away from home, with sleek rooms and delightful artwork adorning the walls.

READ MORE: The best neighbourhoods to stay in Berlin

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