Interest in rail travel continues to grow worldwide with passengers looking to reduce carbon footprints and countries legislating against short haul aviation as they eye climate targets. Some too are seeking a different type of travel, where the journey itself is part of the attraction.
In that spirit, here’s a round up of rail journeys to tempt you in 2024.
Austria by Nightjet
It makes sense to start with Austria’s federal-run ÖBB Nightjet, which CNN Travel credits as “the catalyst for a revival in overnight rail travel that few would have predicted a decade ago.” With routes already spanning Austria and Europe, a new Paris to Berlin service is causing excitement, as is news that Nightjet is now set to introduce its 33-strong fleet of brand-new sleepers, complete with capsule cabins for solo passengers, en-suite showers and loos, and a café bar. The brand new trains will replace the existing stock and be run on a suite of new routes too, as ÖBB expands its current 25 destinations. Zürich-Barcelona is due to come into operation from December 2024.
Brussels to Prague
The romance of taking a train to Prague will never get old – an opportunity spotted by European Sleeper. The Belgian-Dutch cooperative has announced it is extending its Brussels-Berlin route in spring 2024, enabling passengers to come and go all the way to Dresden and Prague by May. Suitable for train lovers of all wallet sizes, their renovated “Good Night Train” offers sleepers for up to three people, couchettes for up to six, and – the good old-fashioned budget option – seats.
With journeys through the well-connected Belgian capital, this option really opens up Europe-wide train travel and beyond.
Italian style all the way
Consider these two ways to savour Italian style, food and landscape at the same time. The first, Accor’s luxury two-night train, in effect a deluxe “Dolce Vita” themed Orient Express finally due to come into service in 2024. For around 2,000 euros, passengers can expect stunning views inside and out as they explore the best Italy has to offer from the Alps, to Venice, to Rome and south to Palermo. Regional gastronomy and wood-clad cabins and suites complete the picture.
Or why not a vintage sleeper into the mountains for skiing? Launched in December 2023 and with ticketing live on the Trenitalia website, a service with restaurant car and espresso bar will now take you overnight from Rome into the Dolomites.
Other new Italian routes set for 2024 include links between the Lombardian capital Milan and the historic port city of Genoa, via Tuscany’s Livorno, as well as a service to take tourists from Rome to Metaponto’s ancient ruins as well as the gateway to Sicily, Reggio Calabria, at the tip of Italy’s so-called “toe.”
In addition, a new high speed Frecciarossa link is being expanded from a trial and will enable day trips between Rome and Pompeii, but only runs once a week on Sundays and selected holidays.
Madrid to Paris
Trenitalia also has tentacles reaching into Spain. It’s good news for rail travellers, as both Spanish and Italian operators are introducing new routes to compete with French TGVs (and aviation) for passengers’ hearts. As well as Spanish rail company Renfe linking Madrid, Barcelona, Lyon and Marseille in 2023, Barcelona and Paris will be connected by high speed Frecciarossa trains by the end of 2024. The aim, according to Luigi Ferraris, CEO of FS Italiane, is to provide alternatives to the short haul air connections that currently dominate across the Mediterranean region.
Malaysian Orient Express
Another dream rail itinerary could be a three-day trip through Kuala Lumpur to idyllic Malaysian islands, or how about a trip to Taman Negara National Park, one of the oldest tropical rainforests on Earth? In shades of Accor’s Orient Express offer, Belmond group is due to launch two spectacular Eastern and Oriental Express journeys in February 2024. Passengers can enjoy not only an adventure into Malaysian scenery and culture but fine dining and “regional opulence” – from €3,045 per person for a Pullman cabin.