The best new European sleeper trains we can’t wait to ride in 2023
From spectacular coastal journeys to new links between cultural capitals, these are the most exciting new night train routes to try this year
In 2023, Europe’s sleeper train network is arguably in a better state than it has been at any point over the past few decades. Motivated by the climate crisis and night trains being a much, much better option for the planet than planes and cars, countries across the European continent are investing huge amounts in new and revived sleeper routes.
Sleepers are back and we’re seriously here for it. Few modes of travel as so romantic, comfortable and simple: hop on a train and doze away, speed across huge distances while you kip, then wake up some place entirely new – and, hopefully, well-rested enough to explore it.
In other words, there are plenty of reasons why you should swap flights for night trains on your next trip. But of all the new night train routes popping up across Europe, which ones should you be most excited for? Well, that’s where we train afficionados at Time Out come in. From cultural city-break spots like Brussels and Berlin to scenic routes down the Italian coast, here are all the new European night trains we can’t wait to ride in 2023.
The best European sleeper trains for 2023
Photograph: ÖBB/Harald Eisenberger
Germany to Venice and Croatia
This brand new Nightjet route launched at the end of 2022 and runs from Germany to Austria, Italy, Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia. Trains depart from Stuttgart and either head towards Venice or Rijeka, stopping at cultural hotspots such as Vienna, Budapest, Ljubljana and Zagreb. That’s central Europe to the Adriatic coast in no time at all.
Read more Photograph: Jan Orlowski / Shutterstock.com
Prague to Germany and Switzerland
Connecting the Czech capital Prague with Swiss finance hub Zurich, this route from Czech national operator České Dráhy (ČD) also stops at Dresden, Leipzig, Frankfurt and Basel. Dubbed the ‘Canopus’ train and shut down in 2017, it restarted at the tail end of 2022 and, excitingly, is set to be juiced up with new carriages sometime in the near future.
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Brussels to Berlin (via Amsterdam and Rotterdam)
This one’s been in the works for a while: initially set for a 2022 launch date, the Brussels-Berlin service by European Sleeper is now set for kick-off on May 25 2023. The ‘Good Night Train’, as it’s officially (and accurately) called, will also link up well with the Eurostar, connecting UK passengers to the continent with a quick change in Brussels.
Read more Photograph: Shutterstock
Munich and Vienna to Italy
Another new NightJet route takes passengers from central Europe down to Italy’s spectacular Ligurian coast. Trains leave from Vienna and Munich and arrive at Genoa in the morning – just in time for the spectacular run down to La Spezia. The coastal line goes right through the middle of the incredibly beautiful and famous Cinque Terre. Make sure you’re on the right-hand side of the train for sea views.
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Paris to Vienna, Budapest and Romania
A NightJet route primed for one thing and one thing only: romance. Whisking travellers between Euro capitals Paris and Vienna, it’s difficult to find a train that links two more loved-up destinations. You can also catch a second night’s sleeper from Vienna which’ll take you to Budapest and Cluj-Napoca – two cities that are perfect for captivating city breaks.
Amsterdam to Cologne and Zurich
The best thing about this route – a literal A-to-Z of European cultural hotspots – is its combination of luxury and affordability. It runs from Amsterdam to Arnhem, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Frankfurt, Basel and Zurich, and the cost of an entire single compartment is just €90 (£79, $96). And if you only need a single seat? Well, that’ll cost just €29 (£25, £31). If that ain’t a bargain, we don’t know what is.
Advertising Photograph: Kapi Ng / Shutterstock.com
Hamburg to Stockholm
Getting the train is already an eco-friendly alternative, but this night train route is even better. Run entirely on renewable energy, Swedish operator SJ’s EuroNight service is a remarkably green way of getting between Hamburg, Copenhagen and Stockholm. And it’s pretty swish, too, featuring brand-new trains with private compartments and six-bed couchettes alongside regular seats. From March, this service will also be extended all the way down to Berlin, thereby linking up several of northern Europe’s coolest cities.
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Zurich to Milan and Rome
Last year also saw the launch of a new route from Zurich to unmissable Italian spots Rome and Milan. Run by (surprise, surprise) NightJet again, it takes just eight-and-a-half hours to get from the Swiss financial capital to the Eternal City. That’s mountain air to espresso and carbonara with ease.
Advertising Photograph: Orient Express / Dimorestudio
The Orient Express to Italy
Right, so this one was technically supposed to have a 2023 launch date but has now been pushed back to 2024 – but that doesn’t mean we can’t get excited about it. The Orient Express La Dolce Vita will offer eye-widening luxury on rails, all while trundling between Italian destinations like Venice, Rome, Siena and the Italian Riviera. We don’t love the term ‘bucket list’, but add this to yours immediately.