There was a time, decades ago, when an overnight sleeper train between European cities was an established, exciting and easy way to travel. Most of these routes disappeared with the advent of air travel and the rise of low-cost carriers that filled the continent’s skies with cheap flights. Factor in discounted bus routes, and there was little reason to seek out a sleeper, even if you could find one.
Fast forward to 2022, and it’s heartening to see that sleeper service is returning. It’s a full-blown revival of overnight trains, but the comeback is less about the romance of the rails and more about concern over climate change and reducing carbon footprints.
On a practical note, traveling from city to city on a sleeper is the most efficient way to go from one city center to another. Forget the extra travel time that an airport requires, let alone the possibility of a delay. For the cost-conscious, note that sleeping on a train means you’re not paying for a hotel room overnight.
SJ EuroNight: Stockholm to Hamburg
The SJ EuroNight launches this month with a daily, year-round sleeper train from the Swedish capital of Stockholm to Malmö, then on to the Danish cities of Copenhagen and Odense, arriving the following day in the German port city of Hamburg, 11 hours later. There is a seating carriage, six-bed couchettes, and a second-class sleeping compartment. However, the best way to travel is in a private sleeping compartment with a shower, two beds, pillows, and a duvet. From Hamburg, you can continue to travel to virtually anywhere in Europe by train.
Nightjet: Amsterdam to Zurich
Austrian Federal Railways has already established overnight routes under their Nightjet brand, linking Cologne and Vienna, Innsbruck and Amsterdam, Munich and Milan, and Vienna with Hamburg. They have been leaders in returning sleeper service since they launched back in 2016. Their next city pair will be an Amsterdam to Zurich route, launching in late 2022 or early 2023. This is a 12-hour trip that runs via the Netherlands and German cities of Cologne and Frankfurt before arriving in Switzerland. Accommodations range from seating carriages to four-bed couchettes to a private sleeper with an en suite bathroom.
European Sleeper: Brussels to Prague
European Sleeper began operations earlier this year, and their initial overnight route is from Brussels to Prague, with stops in cities like Amsterdam, Berlin, and Dresden. They were unable to get the service up and running in the summer of 2022 as planned, but it’s still in the works, with a start date yet to be determined. The plan is for three weekly departures on a trip that will take 15 hours. They’ve promised that all of the beds will be lie-flat.
Midnight Trains: Paris to the Mediterranean
Midnight Trains, a French company, announced last year that they would start overnight train service from Paris by 2024. They still seem to be on track. The company refers to itself as “hotel on rails,” and they’re aiming at a luxury market. Each train will have a restaurant, bar, concierge service, and luxury rooms, all en suite. Specific destinations have yet to be announced, but they aim to connect Paris with 12 cities throughout Europe.