Discover the top 5 night trains in Europe

5 special night trains

There’s something infinitely exciting about falling asleep in one place and waking up in another—rolling through the night, not knowing exactly where you are, drifting off to the gentle rocking of the train.

Europe boasts around 90 night train routes where you can experience this excitement firsthand, travelling in your own ‘hotel on wheels’. These journeys are not only romantic but also efficient—no traffic, tolls, or high fuel costs as you cover hundreds of miles while you sleep. Here are our top five picks for sleeper trains, chosen for their scenic morning arrivals at beautiful coastal or mountainous stations.

Amsterdam to Innsbruck

Route: Amsterdam Centraal – Innsbruck Hauptbahnhof
Operator: Austrian Railways (ÖBB) Nightjet NJ421
Duration: Over 13 hours / 1000 km
Cost: Seats from €29.70 one way up, private compartments from €128 one way.
Wake up to: a classic Viennese breakfast served in your cabin as you travel through the Bavarian Alpine Foreland.

The Nightjet departs Amsterdam nightly, with a split in Nuremberg that sees onward journeys to both Vienna and Innsbruck. As the lights of Amsterdam, Utrecht, and Arnhem fade into darkness, you can enjoy a glass of wine before you drift off to sleep. Leaving Munich the next morning, you’re treated to the most scenic part of the journey—picturesque countryside on either side, with forests, meadows and the snow-capped peaks of the Alps drawing gradually closer. Keep an eye out for the mediaeval Kufstein Fortress, a landmark that signals your arrival in Austria. Following the winding path of the River Inn leads to breathtaking views of the Kaiser Mountains, a highlight of the eastern Alps.

Arriving in Innsbruck, you’ll find yourself surrounded by mountains already. A short 15-minute stroll from the central train station takes you to the futuristic Innsbruck Congress station, where the Hungerburgbahn can ferry you up to the Hungerburg, a haven for adventurers, in just 8 minutes. Don’t miss the popular 10 km Goetheweg (Goethe Trail) to the Pfeishütte, and be sure to explore Innsbruck itself—the city offers countless attractions and is well worth exploring for a few days.

Het centrum van Innsbruck met de indrukwekkende Nordkette op de achtergrond
Arriving into Innsbruck with the looming Nordkette in sight

Milan to Palermo

Route: Milano Centrale – Palermo or Syracuse 
Operator: Trenitalia Intercity Notte 1963
Duration: Around 20 hours / 1500 km
Cost: Seats from €55 one way, private compartments from €99.90 (Super Saver) one way.
Wake up to: beautiful sea views (this route mainly follows the coastline, offering views of the water along much of the way).

The night train journey from Milan to Sicily is renowned for being one of Europe’s most iconic rail adventures, not least because it’s one of the longest routes, taking around 20 hours. Departing from Milano Centrale, a magnificent railway hub, the train snakes its way through the suburbs of Milan, leaving the city behind and climbing over the mountains towards the Ligurian Sea.

From Genoa, the train hugs the coastline for hundreds of miles, offering breathtaking views along the way. A highlight of the journey is the rail ferry crossing to Sicily, as there’s no bridge or tunnel connecting the island to the mainland. This unique experience marks the last train ferry in Europe. Upon reaching Messina, the train splits, with some carriages heading to Palermo and others to Catania and Syracuse.  

Throughout the journey, passengers are treated to stunning views of the sea as well as of Mount Etna, Europe’s largest active volcano. Those who get off at Catania can explore further by hopping on the Ferrovia Circumetnea, a narrow-gauge railway that winds around Mount Etna for 109 km. This scenic route connects Catania Borgo to the coastal town of Riposto, offering access to villages nestled on the slopes of the volcano.

A word of advice: despite the lengthy travel time, be sure to bring your own provisions as this night train unfortunately does not have an onboard restaurant.

Treintje rondom de Etna, Sicilië
Transferring to the Ferrovia Circumetnea, the train that travels around Mount Etna

London to Fort William

Route: London Euston – Fort William, Scotland
Operator: Caledonian Sleeper’s Deerstalker
Duration: Around 13 hours / 800 km
Cost: A bed in a double cabin from £85, seats from £40.
Wake up to: the Scottish Highlands, where you might just see a deer with its huge antlers bounding past your window.

The Caledonian Sleeper to Fort William is known as one of Britain’s most picturesque railways. It offers cosy rooms for one or two people and a stylish Club Car with modern Scottish design. The onboard restaurant showcases Scottish culinary traditions, serving specialties sourced from Highland farms and local bakeries, along with a wide selection of whiskies and gins. It’s not just a train—it’s a true hotel on wheels!

After leaving Glasgow, the train follows the breathtaking West Highland Line to Fort William, the largest town in the West Highlands, winding along Scotland’s west coast, through Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park, past peat bogs high above Rannoch Moor. Along the way, you’ll pass through some of Europe’s smallest and most remote stations, including Corrour, famously featured in the film Trainspotting. Fun fact: you can even spend the night in the Corrour Signal Box, a former signal box turned accommodation located right on the platform.

Upon reaching Fort William, you can enjoy a pleasant half-hour hike to the Ben Nevis Visitor Centre at the base of Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountain at 1,345 m.

Nachttrein Caledonian Sleeper bij station Corrour, Schotland
The Caledonian Sleeper at Corrour station in the Scottish Highlands

Stockholm to Narvik

Route: Stockholm Central – Narvik, Norway
Operator: Vy Tåg night train D 94
Duration: Over 18 hours / 1400 km
Cost: Private compartments from around 3000 SEK (€252), seats from 760 SEK (€64).
Wake up to: the infinite emptiness of Lapland.

The train journey from Stockholm to Narvik is one of Europe’s most unforgettable. It takes around 18 hours, crossing the length of Sweden from its capital to the northernmost station in Europe. The route winds through the endless forests of central Sweden, crosses the mountains of Lapland, and offers breathtaking views along the way.

The trip starts at night, so the first part of the journey through thick forests may be under the midnight sun in summer or in total darkness in winter. As the train reaches Gällivare, it follows the legendary Iron Ore Line (Malmbanan) past Kiruna, offering stunning views of the glacial lake Torneträsk and the iconic Lapporten valley.

Abisko is a popular spot for hikers, with its long-distance Kungsleden Trail and Abisko National Park. Crossing the Norwegian border at Riksgränsen, the train offers spectacular views high above the Rombaken fjord with similarly impressive views of the Ofotfjord as you descend into Narvik. For those venturing to northern Sweden and returning by night train, you can check out our story on Railtripping to the Arctic Circle.

Middernacht zon vanaf Nuolja, Abisko National Park
The midnight sun in Abisko National Park, overlooking the Norwegian mountains.

Paris to Nice

Route: Paris Austerlitz – Nice Ville
Operator: SNCF Intercités de Nuit D 5771
Duration: Over 12.5 hours / 950 km
Cost: Private compartments from €120, seats from €19.
Wake up to: stunning sea views on the Côte d’Azur.

Since 1886, night trains have been shuttling passengers from the grand Gare d’Austerlitz on the Seine through the night down to the Mediterranean Sea. These days of course, you can opt for the 5.5-hour TGV high-speed train from Paris to Nice, but the more leisurely nighttime journey still captures the imagination.

As you pull into Marseille in the morning, the Mediterranean comes into sight with particularly good views after passing the stations of Bandol and Saint Cyr. From Toulon onwards, the tracks veer away from the coast, winding instead through Provence past vast fruit orchards and quiet villages.

As you approach Saint-Raphaël, you’ll pass through the most scenic stretch of the route. The train winds past the stunning Côte d’Esterel, with its captivating coastal mountains. Meandering through the red-brown rocks and deep gorges of the Massif de l’Esterel, the journey is truly breathtaking. Don’t miss the 1862 Viaduc d’Anthéor with its nine brick arches too. Continuing towards Nice, you’ll pass sandy beaches before eventually arriving in the jewel of the French Riviera, in all its splendour.

De spoorlijn door het Esterel Massif
Wake up to views of the Massif de l’Esterel

Night train tips

On most night trains, you can choose between seats, beds in 6- or 4-person compartments or cabins for 1, 2 or 3 people. The latter also often has a sink in the cabin. Toilets and showers are usually available at the end of the carriage. Depending on the train, some cabins may have their own shower and toilet too. Prices for night trains vary and depend on your desired level of comfort, the fare chosen (changeable/refundable, etc.) and the occupancy on the day in question. Booking early always pays off, as some trains can be booked as early as 6 months before departure.

Consider a connection of at least 10 hours

Some night trains leave very late at night or arrive at your destination early in the morning. While efficient, this can result in a short night, and who wants to wake up before dawn and arrive in a city where everything is still closed? Travelling by night train is most enjoyable if you depart a bit earlier in the evening and arrive a bit later in the morning. Spending at least 10 hours on the road allows you to experience both day and night. Enjoy dinner or a glass of wine in the evening and breakfast as a new, unfamiliar landscape passes you by. As a rule, we avoid night trains where the travel time is less than 10 hours.

Take food & drink

Unfortunately, not all night trains have a dining carriage or catering on board. It’s always good to check this in advance with the relevant railway company. Whether food and drinks are available on board or not, we recommend bringing some refreshments with you—it may be healthier, tastier, and much cheaper too.

Bring earplugs

Always bring earplugs—especially if you’re sharing a compartment, but even if you have your own private one. In some trains, the walls between compartments are very thin, and it can feel like your snoring neighbour is right next to you. Bring a bottle of red wine if it helps you sleep easier, too.

Photos: Bart Giepmans, Shutterstock (lead photo, Innsbruck, Sicily)

Bart Giepmans
Bart practically grew up on a train and has been discovering Europe by rail since his childhood. Stints at the Dutch and German Railways and at Interrail have turned him into an ardent ambassador for train travel. Bart has a passion for history and Alpine trails and is commuting regularly between Utrecht and Berlin.