There is something special about travelling by train. The sense of moving through the countryside, yet feeling a part of it at the same time, the excitement and romanticism of journeying to undiscovered places or returning to your favourite haunts, the freedom to bury yourself in a novel, converse with travelling companions and complete strangers or gaze out on the unfolding landscape.
These days travelling to and around continental Europe by train is exciting, effortless and highly enjoyable. In the space of a day you can be in Barcelona, Berlin or Milan. International trains are getting faster and more stylish, new stations have revived the glamour of rail travel and environmental concerns have made travelling by train the obvious choice.
At Planet Rail we use our knowledge and expertise to identify the ideal combination of speed, value, comfort and efficiency to provide you with fabulous journeys to your chosen destination. Whether you fancy a short break to medieval Bruges, the spectacular scenery of the Swiss Alps, the magic of the Italian Lakes or the romance of Venice we can craft your perfect holiday by rail.
Europe by Train
Surely the finest way to travel these days, to Europe and beyond, is on board a train. What better way to experience the excitement and romanticism of travel than from the comfort of your seat as you look out upon an ever-changing landscape? The beauty of taking the train is that the journey becomes an intrinsic and enchanting element of your holiday. You are at liberty to choose how to enjoy the journey – whether to immerse yourself in conversation with travelling companions or a chance encounter in the buffet car, drift off into the realms of a novel or puzzle, or relax as the gentle tapestry of the countryside unfolds before you.
There have been huge advancements in European rail travel in recent years which means that continental Europe is now little more than an hour from London. In the space of a day you can be in Berlin, Barcelona or Milan. International trains are getting faster and more stylish, new stations have revived the glamour of rail travel and environmental concerns have made travelling by train the obvious choice.
At Planet Rail we use our knowledge and experience to identify the best combination of speed, value, comfort and efficiency along with a desire to optimise the views from the train on more scenic routes. The magic of rail travel is that you enjoy a unique and privileged view of the landscape you are passing through. Whether your journey takes you beside sparkling lake shores, through towering mountains, along dramatic coastlines or past rolling hills undisturbed for centuries, the train provides you with this unique view of the world.
High speed trains
In this day and age progress is not always easily defined, yet when it comes to European rail travel it is clear that the train definitely can take the strain. The new Eurostar service to Paris and Brussels will whisk you in some style to these continental capitals in around two hours. The French have been leading the way in high-speed rail travel for decades and their new TGV Est service continues that proud tradition. Board your train in Paris and you can be in Frankfurt just three hours and 50 minutes later. What’s more these modern trains will get you there in comfort and style with extra leg-room, reclining seats, individual reading lights and design by Christian Lacroix!
High-speed trains are the ‘crème de la crème’ of European rail travel. They run on purpose-built tracks and pass through highly efficient, integrated networks, which give them excellent levels of reliability. These trains benefit from state-of-the-art technology, allowing them to tilt in order to smooth out the curves. Apart from Eurostar and the TGV Estothers from the stable of thoroughbred trains include Deutsche Bahn’s stylish flagship Inter City Express or ICE train for journeys through Germany, andThalys which is the name for the TGV service on routes between Paris, Brussels, Cologne and Amsterdam. AVE trains operate on high-speed lines between Madrid and Seville, and now excitingly, Barcelona. Cisalpino is the tilting train that snakes between Germany, Switzerland and Italy and joins up with Eurostar Italia on Italy’s new high-speed lines linking Milan, Florence, Venice and Rome.
Inter-city and inter-regional services
The efficiency, safety and reliability of the European rail network are built upon trains like the InterCity, Corail and EuroCity. These express trains have benefitted from high levels of investment in rail technology. What is more when you travel on these trains most will be new or recently refurbished so comfort levels, especially in First Class, will be of a good standard.
Local, scenic and heritage trains
It is always fascinating to watch the world go by from the comfort of a train, yet there is something truly magical about these special trains. Whether operated as a scheduled service or by a local society they will allow you to experience rail travel from a bygone era or view some of the world’s most spectacular scenery. You can really get in touch with the history and culture of an area on board one of its local trains and begin to understand their impact on the community both in terms of tourism and simply getting from A to B. Where possible, we include scenic or local trains as a highlight of your journey. We also offer them in their own right, as well as, where available, steam-hauled heritage services, as unique and captivating excursions.
Overnight Sleeper trains
Sleeper trains are gaining in popularity for those who want to save time travelling through the night or simply love the romanticism of arriving next morning, hopefully refreshed, to see the dawn in a brand new city. Along with their sister trains you will find that many sleeper carriages have been recently refurbished, and now offer two-berth accommodation and privacy, with comfortable seating converting to upper and lower berths for the overnight journey.
As you can imagine when travelling on a train, the space in sleeping compartments can be limited. Nonetheless staff on these functional trains do their best to ensure they remain clean at all times. Depending on the route and service you choose you will find that facilities do vary. Most compartments will be equipped with their own washbasin and, in some cases, a private WC and even ensuite shower facilities. Probably one of the most enjoyable aspects of sleeper travel is the opportunity to enjoy dinner as you journey into the night.
The majority of sleeper services benefit from a restaurant car, often open from the moment your train departs until late into the journey, serving hot and cold meals and a wide selection of drinks. On some journeys dinner in the restaurant car or a light meal and drinks are included. Should a restaurant car not be available, then a porter will usually be on hand to provide a small selection of snacks and drinks, payable locally. On some trains there is an attendant on board to look after you, bring additional refreshments, make the beds and even bring that welcome breakfast in the morning.
Luxury / Private Cruise trains
We also offer some of the world’s most iconic rail journeys featuring private trains such as the Venice Simplon Orient Express and the Trans-Siberian Express. On these special services meals are usually included and the train is also your hotel for the night(s).
Timings to suit you
In order to help you make the most of your holiday we use our knowledge and expertise to seek out the best trains and routes for your chosen journey. We will advise you which trains to catch whether you choose to enjoy a leisurely breakfast, a relaxing dinner on board or when you arrive at your destination.
We always recommend First Class travel as in our opinion it represents excellent value for money. However, we are happy to book Standard Class rail for you on request. Where Standard Class is the only option available, usually only on short sections of your overall journey, we will make this clear. We will do our best to satisfy any specific seating requirements you may have, however we hope you will understand that we are unable to guarantee such requests.