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TRAIN TRAVEL

REVEALED: The best night trains running through Germany

From Sylt to Salzburg or Dresden to Stockholm, there are lots of amazing night train trips you can take to and from Germany.

To women in a couchette on the night train from Sylt to Salzburg.
To women in a couchette on the night train from Sylt to Salzburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/RDC AUTOZUG Sylt GmbH | Lars Franzen

If you’ve caught the train travel bug with the €9 ticket this summer, you may be pleased to find out that you can go even further afield on a variety of night trains (though not with the €9 ticket since that only covers public transport!).

Though Germany’s main train provider, Deutsche Bahn, put their night trains on ice back in 2016, there are plenty of other train providers whose sleeper trains offer a green alternative to flying for European city breaks.

ÖBB Nightjets 

When Deutsche Bahn stopped running night trains back in 2016, the Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) stepped in to fill the gap with its own Nightjet service.

ÖBB is currently the night train market leader in Germany and operates ten routes through Germany, with stops including Wroclaw, Milan, Rome, Venice, Vienna and Zurich.

A Nightjet train stands on the track at the main station in Vienna in 2021.

A Nightjet train stands on the track at the main station in Vienna in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/APA | Georg Hochmuth

At the start of 2022, they introduced the Zurich – Cologne – Amsterdam, and Vienna – Munich – Paris routes.

The routes Berlin – Brussels, and Berlin – Paris are planned for the end of 2023, and Zurich – Barcelona is planned for 2024.

READ ALSO: Could rail passengers soon see direct trains from the UK to Germany?

Prices range from the economy fare, for just a seat, from as little as €30 (if you book well in advance) to around €200 for a couchette (a semi-private or private compartment with beds) with a shower and toilet.

Green Citytrip Trains

Dutch newcomer, Green Citytrip, opened new night train lines this year and offers long-distance trains from Cologne to Milan, Bologna, Florence, Bolzano, Verona, Venice, Salzburg, Linz, and Vienna.

From Bad Bentheim, a Green Citytrip train will get you to Copenhagen, Malmö, and Gothenburg, and from Dortmund you can travel directly to Prague.

From the Greencity Trip website: https://greencitytrip.de/de/

It’s currently not possible to book a one-way ticket, and the prices shown on the Citytrip website are for round trips of five days: departing on the first day of travel in the evening and arriving back in Germany on the fifth travel day in the morning. Current prices for a round trip start at €189.

From Sylt overnight to Salzburg

Another privately operated night train with sleeping and couchette cars is the Alpen-Sylt-Nachtxpress.

The train usually runs on Thursdays and Saturdays from Sylt to Salzburg and Constance, and on Fridays and Sundays in the opposite direction. It makes stops in Niebüll, Husum, Hamburg, Hanover, Göttingen, Frankfurt, Nuremberg, and Munich, among other places. Timetables and the complete route network are available on the train line’s website.

An economy price seat booked in advance can get you all the way from Sylt to Salzburg for just €29, while the cheapest sleeping option is €39. Women passengers can reserve their individual couchette in the ladies’ compartment at no extra charge.

READ ALSO: What is Sylt and why is it terrified of Germany’s €9 holidaymakers?

Snälltåget

This Swedish train operator rolls from Berlin and Hamburg via Denmark to Sweden. The night train leaves Berlin in the evening and travels via Hamburg, the Copenhagen region, Öresund and Malmö up to Stockholm. According to the timetable, the journey takes around 19 hours.

Snälltåget train route taken from the Snälltåget website: https://www.snalltaget.se/en/destinations

Starting in 2022, there will also be selected services running from Dresden to Stockholm and vice versa. 

Prices vary depending on the ticket (private compartment, comfort reclining seat, normal seat). The compartment is around €300 each way and normal seats cost at least €50.

Are Deutsche Bahn likely to relaunch their night trains?

Deutsche Bahn no longer has its own couchettes, but it does offer nighttime IC and ICE connections with seats. Among other destinations, these trains take passengers from Rostock and Waren (Müritz) overnight directly to Vienna. From Kiel, the trains go via Osnabrück to Munich, and from Hamburg there are direct connections to Copenhagen, Basel, and Zurich.

READ ALSO: Five lesser known German summer destinations to visit this year

For now, it seems that Deutsche Bahn doesn’t seem to have plans to relaunch its trains with sleeping facilities, but rather to cooperate with other railway companies such as ÖBB,  Swiss Federal Railways (SBB), France’s SNCF, and Dutch company Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS). 

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DEUTSCHE BAHN

ICE 3neo: Deutsche Bahn’s speediest train makes first trip in Germany

The high-speed train took off for the first time with paying passengers on the Frankfurt-Cologne route.

ICE 3neo: Deutsche Bahn's speediest train makes first trip in Germany

The new express trains can reach a top speed of 320 kilometres per hour – up from the previous 300 km/hour – and will mainly travel on special “speedways”, initially between Dortmund, Cologne, Stuttgart and Munich. 

Connections to Brussels and Amsterdam are set to follow in 2024. The trains will be featured on Deutsche Bahn’s new schedule set to come out on December 11th. 

READ ALSO: Everything that changes in Germany in December 2022

From the outside, the Siemens-built train looks nearly identical to the current ICE 3 model, but the main improvements can be seen from the inside, said DB in a statement. 

Above all, the new trains boast better lighting, mobile radio-transparent windows and space for eight bicycles. In addition, a fast lifting platform has been built to make it easier for wheelchair users or people with disabilities to get on board.     

Deutsche Bahn ordered a total of 73 ICE 3neo trains from manufacturer Siemens, four of which have already been delivered, it said. 

The last train is to be delivered in 2029 at the latest, with the new line-up to cost Deutsche Bahn around €2.5 billion.

Trying to get up to speed

The trains are urgently needed, said DB passenger transport board member Michael Peterson. “Reliability is not good at Deutsche Bahn at the moment,” and will “remain the case for a certain period of time”. 

READ ALSO: ‘A disaster’: How did train travel in Germany get so bad?

The reason for this, he said, is that Deutsche Bahn is working at full speed to modernise its rail system, which has led to several delays, rerouted services and in some cases cancellations.

In addition to the ICE 3neo, a total of almost 140 somewhat slower ICE 4s are set to join the fleet. 

According to Peterson, more than 450 ICE trains are set to join the network by the end of the decade – about 100 more than at present. 

Vocabulary

maximum speed – (die) Höchstgeschwindigkeit

wheelchair user – (der) Rohlstuhlfahrer

equipped – ausgestattet

reliability – (die) Verlässlichkeit

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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