Traveling by train in Europe is the ultimate romantic experience. Sweeping through the quickly changing picturesque landscape while sipping your red wine is a unique experience in itself.
If you are planning your next trip overseas, here is why Central Europe is the best choice of destination.
Swapping the car or the plane for comfy train rides is not only more relaxing, but is also more sustainable, and eco-friendly. Traveling by train is fast, stress-free, good value, and it has a low carbon footprint as the trains are electric.
Start the journey in Budapest, Hungary, then move on to Vienna, Austria, and end your travels in Zurich, Switzerland.
The trip includes one daytime train ride and a night ride. So, find that dusty copy of the Murder on the Orient Express for the journey, and prepare for an epic trip.
Starting this adventure in Budapest is the best choice to ease into the holiday.
It is suggested to spend three to four days in Budapest to get a feel of the place.
Choose your accommodation in the city center, so most places will be within walking distance.
Budapest has an efficient public transport system and an app (BKK Futar) to check schedules and plan your route. But never forget to buy a ticket or pass because the rigorous ticket inspectors are praying for victims.
Budapest is a bustling city famous for its architecture, cultural heritage, thermal baths, and cuisine.
Climb the hills of Buda to reach grand Buda Castle and colorful tiled Matthias Church. Wonder around in the medieval castle district, which is still a functioning area with locals.
Reach the Fisherman’s Bastion and look out onto the city to admire the greatest gem of all buildings, the exquisite domed building of the Parliament. Take in the breathtaking cityscape and spot the Budapest Eye in the distance.
You can also visit the Parliament and have a guided tour of the place. The rich interior with plenty of marble, gold, and red velvet is already worth the visit.
The highlight of the tour, however, is the ancient crown that belonged to the first king of Hungary, Stephen I.
Make your way to St Stephen’s Basilica, another architectural landmark, to discover the history behind the dome of the building.
For more city views, walk up to Gellert Hill to see the whole of Budapest. On the top, you will find the Hungarian liberty statue, a lady holding up a palm leaf.
The many bridges connecting Buda and Pest offer a 360o view of both sides of the city. Take a stroll on Liberty Bridge (Szabadsag híd) from Buda to Pest to visit the Great Market Hall.
The market serves the locals with fresh produce and the tourists with traditional crochet tablecloths and powdered paprika. It is also a great lunch spot to try traditional dishes upstairs.
The food is incomparable with any other cuisine. You will find something delicious whatever diet you follow.
Hungary has a great wine and beer culture, so after food try one of the quirky ruin bars.
The National Gallery, the Opera House, and Szechenyi Bath are great spots for rainy days.
When you have explored enough of this mysterious city, make your way to Keleti Railway Station to catch your train to Vienna Main Station.
It is worth booking the train in advance for a better price and a guaranteed seat. The journey takes approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes to travel 214km between the two cities. This is plenty of time to check job salary negotiation tips.
You can choose to upgrade your ticket to Business Class to enjoy reclining leather seats, a meal, and a complimentary drink.
The train is a great and efficient mode of transport to make your way from Eastern to Central Europe.
Another benefit of traveling by train is that there is no luggage restriction. You can take on as much as you like.
You will have Wi-Fi and power sockets available on the Railjet trains. There is also an option to bring your bike, but spaces are limited and must be booked in advance.
There is no check-in process, so you just board the train when you got the platform details. Just make sure you will have your tickets ready for inspection when the conductor passes by.
Whether you visit Vienna for a couple of days or a week, you will always find exciting things to do.
Vienna has one of the best Christmas markets in Europe. It is a cozy experience to hold a cup of famous mulled wine while inspecting the stalls with handmade Christmas ornaments and other arts and crafts.
Vienna is also a great place to immerse yourself in cultural activities. There is a vast array of museums dedicated to all sorts of subjects such as shoes, Esperanto, architecture, or Jewish heritage.
Listening to live classical music, watching ballets, and operas are also very Viennese ways of spending your free time.
Wander through the Old Town to admire the different style buildings which include but are not limited to medieval, baroque, historicist, and modernist buildings.
Vienna is a great place to relax and charge up. Put your maps away and explore the cozy bars and cafes in the 4th District around Schleifmuhlgasse, and the shopping street Mariahilfestrasse.
When you feel cold to the bone, take shelter in a coffee house. They are far more than just a place to drink coffee. You will find the most delicious cakes and pastries which are just unmissable.
If you are not in the mood for sweets, just order an espresso and you can stay put for hours. Observe the local social life, or just sit on your laptop and check jobs in environmental sustainability.
When traveling from Vienna to Zurich by train you have the option to travel during the day or night.
The day ride takes a minimum of 7 hours and 50 minutes depending on how many times you need to change. This means you will lose most of the day to travel, but you will see the scenic landscape of the Alps.
If you travel on the Nightjet, you win time and save money on accommodation as you won’t need to find a hotel for the night.
If you decide to go on the night train, you have different options for how you want to spend the time.
Depending on who you travel with and how many of you travel, you can choose the most suitable option.
On a very low budget, you can choose to have just a seat in a normal carriage.
If you want to lay down for the night, you can book a couchette which is usually in a 4 or 6-bed cabin, and it is the cheaper way to sleep through the night on the train.
On a higher budget, you can choose to stay in a sleeper cabin with one other passenger or by yourself. The standard cabin comes with a bed and a washbasin, and breakfast is also included in the price.
Deluxe cabins sell out pretty quickly because they have shower and toilet facilities inside the cabin.
There is no communal shower on the train, only toilets.
Traveling on the night train is a unique experience, especially when we are more used to flying everywhere.
The last leg of the trip is Zurich, which is a great blend of the old and new architecture.
There is Lake Zurich in the city, which locals use for swimming in the summer and ice skating in the winter.
Switzerland is the ultimate destination for hiking. Thankfully there are hiking spots close to Zurich which you can visit by doing a day trip.
Catch a train from Zurich Main Station to Uetilberg which takes about half an hour.
The hike is called The Planet Trail because it represents the enormous distances in the solar system. Each meter you walk on the path from Uetilberg to Felsenegg counts 1 million kilometers. The 2-hour hike will take you from the Sun past the 8 planets all the way to Pluto.
At the end of the trail, you can enjoy breathtaking views over Lake Zurich and catch a glimpse of the mountains in the distance.
Located on both sides of the Limmat River, in the Old Town, you will find charming colorful buildings and narrow medieval side streets.
Wander around Bahnhofstrasse, the street renowned for having the most eye-soaring price tags in its shops. The high-end shop fronts all feature national and international luxury brands.
If you are on a low-budget or backpacking trip, this probably won’t be your prime shopping location. However, it is fun to observe and see how people on the other side live.
If you are visiting Zurich in December, you can enjoy an enhanced atmosphere. Christmas lights and decorations will be lighting up the whole area.
Before you set off to go home, don’t miss out on the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world, Hiltl. It is always a crowded place during lunch time, for a good reason.