Jacqueline Des Forges is a European rail expert and community manager for Rail Europe, the place to plan and book your Euro rail trip if you’re from outside the EU.
Europe is truly a great place to let loose. With its summer festivals, beach concerts, beer gardens and, well, pretty much everything in Amsterdam, it’s easy to see why so many travellers dream of partying their way across this continent. Here we’ve created the perfect train itinerary for those of you looking for late nights, lively gatherings and a beverage or two…
1. Start in Barcelona
Barcelona is one of Europe’s most playful cities. The art and architecture for which it is most known – notably Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia and Park Guell, as well as the colorful, energetic images of the Catalan Art Nouveau movement – depict perfectly the feeling of whimsy that defines the city. Visitors and locals alike use this energy to stay out all night at the many clubs and discos open until the early hours of the morning.
The “Magic Fountain” water and lights show on weekends during the summer. We imagine this would be a pretty fun thing to watch after beverages happen. This fountain is located near the Placa d’Espanya and was constructed for the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition.
Getting to Barcelona:
The central train station is called Barcelona Sants and is connected to most other major cities in Spain, as well as the south of France. There is also a new high-speed train connection between Barcelona and Paris if you’re heading down towards Barcelona from the north.
2. Head up to Cannes
There’s nothing like the beaches of the French Riviera in the summertime. By day the beaches are laid back and relaxing – locals and travellers mingle in the sunshine, enjoying the waves or sipping cocktails – but at night, when it cools down, the coast is energetic and upbeat thanks to a series of concerts that take place right on the beach.
Historically Cannes has been the site for many a hedonistic escape – artists at the turn of the 20th century used to flee Paris and head to the Riviera for inspiration, and it’s where one of the most famous movie festivals takes place every year. It’s the perfect stop for travellers who love to enjoy the revelries of a sunny afternoon as much as the parties that take place after the sun sets.
Les Plages Electroniques, taking place every summer in July and August. This electronic music festival takes over a public beach and is an easy 10 to 15 minute walk from the Cannes train station.
From Barcelona to Cannes by train:
From Barcelona, you will need to take a train first to Valence, then to Cannes. The journey will take about 6-7 hours total, depending on connections. Tickets can be purchased in advance (and during busy weekends, they definitely should be purchased in advance, as trains fill up quickly). Alternatively, a rail pass that includes France, Spain, or both will cover the ticket price of this route, so you will just need to purchase the seat reservation supplement for the specific time and date you decide to travel.
3. Save us a seat at Oktoberfest
We don’t have to tell you that Oktoberfest in Munich is probably one of the world’s most famous parties. With dozens of beer tents, steins bigger than your face, and even a few conveniently located hills where festival-goers can go take a breather and a nap, it’s not difficult to see why so many travellers flock to Oktoberfest each fall to partake in the revelry.
Oktoberfest only lasts for a month, but travellers can find plenty of reasons to keep the party going throughout Germany. Berlin has become known for its underground clubs and all night parties in formerly abandoned warehouses. Dresden is full of quirky bars (like The Big Lebowski bar and “to-go” bars – drinking on the street isn’t forbidden, so you can purchase a drink “to-go” on your way from one bar to the next.)
From Cannes to Munich and beyond by train:
From Cannes to Munich, you’ll need to make at least one stopover somewhere. The easiest route would take you from Cannes to Paris (high-speed train, about 5 hours) and then from Paris to Munich (high-speed train, about 6 hours). Point to point tickets can be purchased for each of these routes; if you’re traveling with a rail pass that covers the ticket price of these trains, you will just need to purchase the seat reservation supplement for the specific time and date you’d like to travel.
The city of Munich, just outside of Oktoberfest, is one of the busiest railway hubs in Europe because of its easy connections to cities like Vienna, Berlin, Zurich, and more. You can travel to pretty much any of the main German cities by train from Munich – get to Berlin in 6 hours, Frankfurt in 3 hours, Hamburg in 5.5 hours – you get the idea.
4. Recover with a pint in Prague
Prague is known for its fairytale steeples and for being fairly mellow as far as European cities go, but it’s a great place to socialize and is rich in food and beverage culture. Take a picnic out along the banks of the Elbe in the evening before heading out for a night of fun. If you get hungry later, the street vendors selling sausage are well-known for being out and about until the sun rises. The food is also what makes Prague such a perfect city for waking up and recovering from late nights out – the traditionally hearty meals are perfect for those mornings-after when you’re feeling a bit under the weather.
A quick morning or afternoon tour of Prague. This is one of the most picturesque capital cities in Europe, and it would be a shame to spend so much time frolicking throughout Europe without seeing at least a little bit of a city during daylight. Besides, sitting in a city sightseeing bus tour for a couple hours is a great way to regroup before your next stop: Amsterdam.
From Munich to Prague by train:
There are direct trains from Munich to Prague that take about 5-6 hours. You could also make a connection in Vienna – this would take 8 or 9 hours but offers you more options in terms of scheduling. Both point to point tickets and rail passes would work for this route – just keep in mind that with a rail pass, you would need to purchase a seat reservation supplement for the specific time and date you’d like to travel.
5. End in Amsterdam – because, obviously
Is Amsterdam ever not included on a partying-in-Europe list? Notorious for being the European traveller’s playground, this little city offers delights for all types of partying visitors, whether you prefer beer gardens, late night clubs, coffee cafes, those other types of cafes, boat parties, and beyond. Amsterdam offers a big array of options for such a little city. We included it here last because hey, we figure you should go out with a bang.
The Heineken Experience. One of the more impressive brewery tours in Europe, this experience is the perfect way to start an evening of fun – it includes a tasting room, a ride, a “bottle your own Heineken” option, and more.
From Prague to Amsterdam by train:
There are a few different routing options here, but we recommend traveling through Berlin. If traveling with point to point tickets rather than a rail pass, you will need to book a ticket from Prague to Berlin (about 5 hours), and then a ticket from Berlin to Amsterdam (about 6.5 hours). If traveling with a rail pass, your pass will cover the ticket price of the trains and you’ll just need to book the seat reservation supplement for the specific date and time you’d like to travel.
Would a rail pass be a better deal for this route than point to point tickets?
It might be, yes. Generally we say that if you plan to take more than 3 or so trips by train, you should at least price out your itinerary both with a rail pass and with point to point tickets to see which one will be a better deal. There are a lot of variables that come into play: whether you’re traveling first class or second class, whether you’re taking international trains, overnight trains, traveling with a friend or alone, and so on, so prices for passes and tickets can vary depending on any traveler’s specific itinerary.
Try out Rail Europe’s interactive rail map to get some help deciding whether to travel with a pass or tickets if you’re feeling unsure.