A 14−Day Itinerary for Exploring Five European Capital Cities by Train

A photo of a opulent white building in Vienna
Stumbled upon a carnival outside of Karlskirche, one of the Vienna’s iconic churches.

A 14−Day Itinerary for Exploring Five European Capital Cities by Train

Imagine this: You hop on a train in Vienna, and four hours later, you’re soaking in a Hungarian thermal bath. That’s the beauty of train travel in Europe. Sure, you could fly from place to place, but traveling by train is convenient and stress-free. If you’ve knocked out some of the big European destinations [think Paris, Barcelona or Rome] or you’re simply looking for something a bit different, check out this 14-day itinerary for exploring five European capital cities by train.

A photo of the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest.
The Hungarian Parliament Building, which sits along the Danube River in Budapest.

Start your trip gawking at the grand architecture in the Hungarian capital, Budapest.

Why go

The buildings are grand, opulent and simply magnificent. A fantastic example of the architecture is the Hungarian Parliament Building, which sits along the Danube River on the Pest side of the city. Dozens of burgundy spires and a towering massive dome beam from the colossal white complex. The view is remarkable — both day and night. I always imagine Budapest saying, “Go big or go home.”

Stay for

Three nights minimum

Don’t leave without

A dip in the Hungarian thermal baths. Similar to Bath, England, there are many natural hot springs in Budapest. After a morning of exploring, spend an afternoon at the Széchenyi Spa Baths, which has several thermal baths, pools and saunas. So relaxing!

A photo of cake and coffee.
The original Sacher Torte from Cafe Sacher in Vienna.

Sip coffee in the lavish Austrian capital, Vienna.

Why go

From the coffee houses to the museums to the opera to the wine bars to the palaces, Vienna casts a spell on you and leaves you begging to return for more. This regal Austrian city just oozes elegance and class.

Stay for

Two nights minimum

Don’t leave without

Bopping around the popular coffee houses such as Demel, Cafe CentralCafe Leopold Hawelka and Café Sacher. What is better than an afternoon filled with coffee, cake and beautifully decorated buildings? Be sure to visit Café Sacher, which is home to the original Sacher Torte.

More time? Make a pit stop in Bratislava, Slovakia.

A photo of the sun rising above the Old Town Square in Prague.
Set your alarm, grab a coffee and watch the sunrise from the Charles Bridge, the historic, gothic-style bridge in Prague.

Wander through the medieval Old Town in Prague.

Why go

Strolling through Prague feels like you’ve traveled back in time. The Gothic buildings. The teal-colored domes. The terracotta rooftops. The charming Old Town. Nicknamed the “City of a Hundred Spires,” you’re guaranteed to fall in love with this picturesque town!

Stay for

Two nights minimum

Don’t leave without

Watching the sun rise from the Gothic-style Charles Bridge. You’ll beat the tour crowds, who begin pouring in later in the morning. Be sure to rub the St. John of Nepomuk statue before leaving the bridge. Legend has it, you will return to Prague one day. And who wouldn’t want that?!

More time? Make a pit stop in Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic, on your way to Prague from Vienna.

A photo of street art on the Berlin Wall.
Wander along the East Side Gallery, which is a section of the Berlin Wall that has been transformed into a nearly mile-long art gallery.

Next up, the artsy and historic German capital, Berlin.

Why go

Many people travel to Berlin for the club scene. Some go for the arts. A lot go for the award-winning restaurants. But all visit for the history. From guided tours to museums to memorials to audiobooks, there are a variety of ways to dive deep into Berlin’s dark past.

Stay for

Three nights minimum

Don’t leave without

A powerful moment of silence in the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It’s an important place to reflect. Visit the bare, raw section of the Berlin Wall. Don’t get me wrong, the East Side Gallery, a section of the Berlin Wall that has been painted by artists, is super impressive and worth checking out, but there’s something different about the untouched section of the wall.

More time? Make a pit stop in Dresden, Germany. 

Bicycles lining a bridge and canal in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam: Where there are more bicycles than people.

Finally, bop around the hip Dutch capital, Amsterdam.

Why go

Amsterdam is often referred to as the “Venice of the North.” Simply walking around this Dutch city is so enjoyable because of the scenic canals and mix of colonial and modern architecture. Add in the bikes, beer, food, windmills and museums, and Amsterdam may just have it all. Oh, and some really interesting cafes and red lights [if that’s your thing — no judgement here].

Stay for

Three nights minimum

Don’t leave without

A visit to the Anne Frank House. You will walk through the actual space where Anne, her family and another family lived in hiding for nearly two years. Prepare yourself for a range of emotions. It’s infuriating and sad, but it’s so important to study and remember our world’s past.

More time? Explore the windmill-filled town of Zaanse Schans. 

Train tickets and schedules

There are ample companies to choose from when booking train travel online. My go-to recommendations are OMIO and RailEurope. Check the prices on point-to-point tickets versus a multi-city rail pass, which you can easily look up on RailEurope.

Here’s the duration between each city:

• Budapest to Vienna: 2 hours, 40 minutes

• Vienna to Prague: 3 hours, 57 minutes

• Prague to Berlin: 4 hours, 9 minutes

• Berlin to Amsterdam: 6 hours, 26 minutes

Of course, you can do the trip in reverse! Start in Amsterdam and make your way toward Budapest.

Ready to start planning? Check out detailed travel guides to each city.

• Budapest

• Vienna

Prague

Berlin

Amsterdam

More time? Check out this three-month Europe itinerary.

Need packing assistance? Here’s a packing list for three months backpacking Europe.

Have you traveled via train before? Have you visited any of these cities? Share your travel experiences below.

 

5 Comments Add yours

  1. I would love to make this train journey! I actually haven’t been to any of the cities except Amsterdam, so it would be perfect. Great itinerary!

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