The most joyful, romantic way of discovering Europe is undoubtedly via train travel, and interrailing has long been a popular form of tourism. Well, we’ve created the ultimate country-crossing European rail travel itinerary.
From young backpackers itching to make memories on their first European summer, to culture vultures, foodies and, more recently, flightless eco travellers, the rail networks of Europe see countless eager explorers hopping on and off all year round. The connections across the mainland are good – and getting better – while Euro rail passes are often extremely affordable.
Not only is travelling Europe by train the most efficient and practical way to go, and far more gentle on the environment than planes and cars, but it also offers a totally different travel experience.
More than any other method of transport, riding on a locomotive can be an experience in and of itself. That’s especially true in Europe where, in between your city destinations, there’s an ever-changing array of beautiful natural landscapes – from the luscious forests of southern Germany and Czechia, to the alpine lakes and snowy peaks of Switzerland and the glorious winding coastal routes of Italy. You can watch rural farmers ploughing away, or whiz past the vineyards that produce your evening tipple. You’ll watch regions, country’s and continents evolve right in front of you, both geographically and culturally.
That’s the inspiration behind our Rail Trips, which are an ode to train travel and a statement of our commitment to responsible travel. We have a few that explore Europe – from a Scottish adventure starring the Hogwarts Express, to a nine-day epic through the classics of Northern Italy and a unique continent-crossing itinerary from Madrid to Marrakech – but no trip better captures the interrail spirit than our love letter to Central Europe.
Berlin to Budapest: The Best of Central Europe by Train
It’s quite remarkable just how much history and culture is contained within the heartlands of this long and storied continent. It never takes long to go from a quaint fairytale town to a giant medieval city. Picture spectacular gothic cathedrals and transportive old towns, where the cobbled streets are as rickety as the local baker’s goods are delicious. On the trail from one ancient city to another you can expect bright green forests, shimmering lakes, famous rivers and epic mountain valleys – all of which you can take in from the comfort of your window seat on this 10-day, five-capital itinerary.
We start in a city with more story to tell than most, Berlin. The German capital has a rich history dating back to the late Middle Ages, a modern history as turbulent as Europe gets, and a fluorescent, forward-thinking, multicultural present that at times can feel almost utopian. After getting to know the group over dinner and a local beer at a hearty German restaurant – every tourist here needs to try some currywurst – we’ll embark on a cultural discovery of the city, with the help of our friendly Local Insider, who’ll guide you beyond the tourist traps and into authentic Berlin.
Having become an honorary Berliner, we’ll hop onboard a train and cross our first border into Czechia, passing glorious forested countryside en route to Prague. The Czech capital is among the most beautiful in all of Europe, with a beautifully preserved old town and architectural gems of the gothic, renaissance and baroque styles both sides of the Vltava River. There are many viewpoints across the city to bask in its beauty, and our guide will show you very best as you discover Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, Malá Strana and the John Lennon Wall. This is also one of the greatest beer cities on Earth, and you’ll get to sample the local goods during a tasting session at an excellent local brewery.
Next we continue southwest by train towards one of the world’s most sophisticated cities, Vienna. The Austrian capital has an artistic and intellectual legacy few can rival, particularly when it comes to classical music. The aesthetics of the city itself match this reputation, with a picturesque grandeur that does justice to the geniuses that have called this place home. You’ll have a locally led tour of the city, followed by a classic schnitzel dinner and, if there’s room for dessert, why not go for a slice of sachertorte too?
At this point we’ll take a little detour from city hopping, instead tracing the Danube down to the splendid Wachau Valley, characterised by its pretty rolling hills and vineyards, snaking alongside Europe’s most stunning river. You’ll embark on a cycle tour of the valley, followed by a well-earned wine tasting and lunch in the fairytale medieval town of Krems, before returning by train to Vienna for an evening spent at your leisure.
The penultimate stop on our Euro rail epic is one of the continent’s most underrated cities, Bratislava. The Slovakian capital, just across the border from Vienna and also sitting on the Danube, has a remarkably unique sense of identity. It has an utterly charming old town, with quiet little side streets and a flourish of city greenery, all overlooked by the truly attention-stealing majesty of Bratislava Castle. But the city also has a quirky individuality, from its striking brutalist and modernist skyscrapers to the odd-looking UFO Bridge and extremely characterful bronze statues dotted around the city. You’ll get to discover it all on an in-depth guided tour with our Local Insider.
Our last call is Budapest, a favoured stop for most keen interrailers. The Hungarian capital, and Queen of the Danube, is as striking in its beauty as it is rich in nightlife. The jaw-dropping Parliament Building is the postcard favourite, but there are also local delicacies to be devoured and underground caves to be explored, not to mention the fact that this is the unlikely spa capital of Europe.
You’ll get a guided tour of the city – including a street food lunch break at a traditional market, where you’ll tuck into a delicious Langos snack – which ends on the Buda side for a well-earned soak in the city’s famous Gellert Thermal Baths. Your final days can be spent as you wish. You could visit the poignant Shoes of the Danube memorial, go exploring in underground caves or visit Buda Castle, Europe’s largest synagogue. We’ll gather the group one last time for a farewell dinner and drinks at one of the city’s trendy ruin bars – the perfect place to reflect over a memory-making European train odyssey.
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meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.