Europe by Rail in 2020

By Edward | Cheaper Tickets

Jun 30
Czech Railcar Domazlice

So what are your plans for travelling Europe by Rail in the rest of 2020? We've almost reached the middle without going anywhere.

It's been hard.

It's been three months of Sundays in which my only consolation (train-wise) has been a book. Did I say consolation? I meant replacement drug. Methadone. The book is

Europe by Rail.

Europe by Rail is a guide book for exploring Europe by train. It is written by Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries, runs to 544 pages and costs around £17/€20/$22.

It contains a section for before you leave, covering how to make an itinerary and how to get the best tickets. Then come the 52 routes that criss-cross Europe. The third part is an extensive reference section for rapid topical information.

This is the 16th edition. And for the first time, appositely, it includes the United Kingdom.

Before you leave

Verona Porta Nuova

Verona Porta Nuova station. I'm just cramming in a few of my own scenic pix, OK?

The first 50 pages lay the groundwork for your trip. They equip you with everything you need to be a self-sufficient railway traveller. I realise I'm making this sound like some arcane eastern practise, but advanced ticket whizzing is just that. 

The question of tickets and itineraries is a never-ending story and especially tickets could fill 1000 pages. Europe by Rail gives you the 20% knowledge you need to get 80% of the good deals, in just a few pages. Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries also have a surprising take on Interrail which completely changed my own opinion of the famous rail pass.

Fun fact: I've never had an Interrail pass.

A massive feat of curation

Europy by Rail routes

The 52 routes, seen from above. © David McCutcheon / DVD Maps"

The 52 routes. Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries are also editors of hidden europe magazine, which they have been editing since 2005. There are few people alive who have seen as much of Europe as Nicky and Susanne.

These 52 routes thus represent a massive feat of curation by two of the most experienced, professional European travellers active today.. This isn't to be sniffed at. 

The routes are loosely grouped into regions - Exploring Britain and Ireland, Alpine adventures...Balkan journeys. 

Each route has a number and a name, e.g. Route 16: The Atlantic Coast of Iberia. Then stars are awarded for cities, culture, history and scenery. Countries covered, journey time and distance. A schematic map gives you an idea of the directions.

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One stellar feature in the latest edition is that each route now comes with a more detailed map online. Every route entry includes a short URL. Enter this into your browser and you are taken to a detailed, scaleable map of your impending journey. Here: click this.

What follows is sublime, evocative travel writing that draws you into the landscape and the cities along the way. Take Europe by Rail to the loo and they may have to send a search party after you.

Europe by Rail 2020 Route

Typical Europe by Rail route description

Highly distilled rail travel intel

After 400-odd pages covering the routes across Europe, there follow another 90 pages of references. "Reference" sounds like an afterthought, but this section comprises the Gazetteer - an A-Z of European countries with only the most relevant information - money, what sockets are used, national holidays. Then, what to expect in accommodation and train travel, country by country. I got sucked into this too. 

After that follows a reference section actually called reference section. An interesting addition is a compilation of city links - an A-Z of principal European cities and the approximate duration of direct train journeys to other cities.

Getting sidetracked

What I particularly love about Europe by Rail  is how it manages to reconcile concise, crystalline information with entertaining trivia. The book is interspersed with bite-size Sidetracks with at times only a vague connection to their position in the book.

But such delicious trivia. Did you know that the corridor along the side of compartment carriages was the end result of a Frechman being murdered in 1861? Or that Poland has a centuries-old Islamic tradition? Now you do. 

Europe by Rail 2020 Sidetrack

A typical Europe by Rail sidetrack


I may be starting to gush now. I don't see what other guidebook one could possibly need when travelling Europe by Rail. It wipes the floor with Rick Steves's Best of Europe.

If you were a complete novice you'd be off to the races with Europe by Rail. And even if you are an experienced traveller there is something for you in this book.

I always thought little of Interrail and Eurail. I never had a pass because my interests always lay further east. And for Western travel I was always fine getting my promo fixes.


Italian Pendolino at Domodossola, waiting to depart for Milan.

But reading Nicky Gardner's and Susanne Kries's take on Interrail changed my opinion. I've got a much more balanced, informed view now. I might even get an Interrail one of these days.

So what are your plans for the rest of 2020? We've almost reached the middle without going anywhere.

If you are preparing to hit the rails, then consider getting this book. If you are not going anywhere at all, then consider getting this book, too.

Look, I've put a button here. Click it to see where you can get your copy.

Buy the book

See where Europe by Rail is on sale

If you are interested in travel writing from unusual corners of Europe, you might also like hidden europe magazine, which is edited by Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries. It is comes out in print three times a year. The next edition is due shortly. I have been a subscriber for three years now and devour it as soon as it hits my letterbox.

And if you want to click another interesting button, below you will find one for subscribing to my blog. 

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About the Author

After crisscrossing Europe for 6 years as a train conductor, I guide intrepid travellers roaming Europe by rail.

  • Richard says:

    Great post as always!

  • Greg Brumley says:

    Thank you, Richard, i will buy from amazon tomorrow.

  • James says:

    Thank you for the post! I also have this book and, like you, frequently feel moved to sing its praises.

  • Dagmar says:

    I said it repeatedly and will keep saying it again, I simply love the way you write!

  • cyberT says:

    Have used interrail passes for journeys from the UK to France, Switzerland, Germany and Italy 2018/2019 and will be using them again in August 20. More than cost the advantage of the pass is flexibility – mostly use the pass for the main stop/stay destinations and save pass days by using (coincidental) promo fixes for day trips e.g. Rome/Naples, Milan/Venice.

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