All Aboard the Night Train: European railways embrace sustainable travel in 2024

Berlin · Photo: Anthony Reungere · Unsplash

Here at Superminimaps we are celebrating that major European rail companies are ushering in a revival of overnight sleeper trains with the introduction of three new routes: Berlin to Paris, Berlin to Brussels, and Paris to Aurillac, as we have read in Forbes.

This resurgence of slow traveling is a welcome shift from a decade ago when night trains nearly disappeared due to the prevalence of cheap flights from budget airlines (and as we know the environmental, urban and social consequences of the massification of tourism have not been as desirable, to use a euphemism). So, State-owned companies spearheading these new overnight trains are thriving, and travelers are enthusiastically embracing this classic, practical and more sustainable mode of rail travel.

Environmental consciousness obviously plays a role in the renewed popularity of sleeper trains, as a relevant segment of the public recognizes the substantial carbon footprint associated with short-haul flights across the continent. Opting for trains not only provides a more eco-friendly choice but also offers a relaxed and efficient mode of travel.

The convenience of departing and arriving in city centers eliminates the hassles and expenses associated with airports

The sleeper berth serves as a comfortable and cost-effective alternative to hotel accommodation, allowing passengers to work, read, sleep, and enjoy scenic views. Additionally, the convenience of departing and arriving in city centers eliminates the hassles and expenses associated with airports (the worst part of the whole traveling experience), contributing to the appeal of overnight train travel.

Several EU countries are investing in improved connections by introducing new rolling stock and railways. For example, the Austrian national railway operator, ÖBB Nightjet, a key player in revitalizing overnight train travel, has unveiled trains with modern amenities like wireless charging stations, free wifi, and private compartments with showers and toilets.

Gare du Nord · From this station I departed to Berlin more than 20 years ago when I first visited Europe. Photo: Moiz K. Malik · Unsplash

The debut of these three new overnight trains, including the much-anticipated Berlin to Paris route (a route I took twenty years ago during my first trip to Europe), marks a significant step in the expansion of sleeper train services, providing travelers with a sustainable, efficient, and enjoyable alternative to airplanes.

Here are details about three new overnight trains debuting this week:

  • ÖBB Nightjet: Berlin to Paris – The much-anticipated return of the overnight train service from Berlin to Paris after a nine-year hiatus. Initially operating three times a week, it is expected to transition to daily service in the fall. The schedule includes stops at Halle (Saale), Erfurt, Mannheim, and Strasbourg.

  • ÖBB Nightjet: Berlin to Brussels – Another new route from ÖBB Nightjet connecting Berlin with Brussels, initially offered three times a week. Departing from Brussels at 6:48 pm, the train stops at Liège, Aachen, Bonn, Koblenz, Frankfurt, Erfurt, and Halle (Saale), arriving in Berlin at 8:26 am.

  • SNCF: Paris to Aurillac – The reintroduction of night train service between Paris and Aurillac after nearly 20 years. SNCF Voyageurs announces the Le Pyrénéen and L’Occitan night trains connecting the French capital with Aurillac in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, with ongoing connections to the city of Cantal.


And, of course, once in Paris, Berlin or Brussels, remember to print your minimap to have a friend guiding you around:

Berlin: The World Within Reach, edited by Nina Birri.

Berlin: The Breakfast Route, edited and illustrated by Elena Resko.

Paris: Is for Reading, edited by Ana Laya and illustrated by Charlotte Martin.

Brussels: Eat, Drink and Repeat, edited and illustrated by Ana Laya.

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