Regional trains are the heart and soul of European train travel. They'll take you almost anywhere you want to go in Europe, from the smallest villages to the largest capitals. There are always plenty of regional trains going in every direction – so go out there and discover Europe!
Regional trains in Europe
What are regional trains?
Regional trains are an excellent way to get around Europe. These trains may not have the speed and luxury of high-speed trains, but they're still a very comfortable means of travel. You will find toilets on board and sometimes there are snack trolleys or vending machines. The availability of other facilities, such as Wi-Fi, depends on the train you’re on and the country you’re traveling in.
There are many advantages of traveling by regional train. Here are a few of them:
Go off the beaten track and visit some of Europe's charming towns and villages.
Meet locals on the train as these are the trains they most often take.
Enjoy flexible travel. If you miss your train you can simply board the next one, since regional trains have frequent services.
Hop on board most regional trains as reservations aren't usually required.
A girl is relaxing in a Dutch regional train A regional train arrives in an Austrian mountain village
Where do regional trains go?
All roads lead to Rome, and every single one of them is worth exploring. From quaint country villages to sleepy fishing towns, there’s so much waiting to be discovered with your Eurail pass. To fully experience Europe is to travel by regional train and discover new places you might never have expected to find. If you feel intrigued by a town as you’re approaching the station, why not get off and take a wander around. Some stations have a left luggage office or lockers so you can leave your belongings for a small fee.
Here are a few examples of wondrous places that can only be reached by regional train:
Sintra, Portugal - This Portuguese town is quite simply an open-air museum, with its large Moorish castle and the strangely colorful Palácio di Pena. Regional trains from Portugal’s capital, Lisbon get you there in around 40 minutes.
Mont St. Michel, France - Straight from a fantasy novel, this peninsula is one of the most beautiful sights in France. From Rennes, a regional train will take you there in 55 minutes.
Füssen, Germany - In this German town, you'll find the magical Neuschwanstein Castle, which was the direct inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland. From Munich, a regional train will take you there in 2 hours.
Reservations on regional trains
The wonderful thing about regional trains is that you don’t usually need to worry about reserving a seat. You can simply hop on and off whenever you like and if you happen to miss your train, the next one is right around the corner.
There are exceptions of regional trains that do need to be reserved in advance, such as airport services and some InterCity and EuroCity trains. These are fast regional trains that make fewer stops and operate between the bigger cities. They appear in the Eurail timetable as "IC" and "EC" and you can usually make your reservations for them at the train station.
Do you want to avoid reservations while planning your trip? In the Eurail timetable, simply check the box that states ‘avoid trains that require reservations'.
Excited to travel Europe with regional trains? Read the following tips for a smooth journey:
Regional trains are not equipped with a restaurant car. If you’re planning on taking a long trip, you might want to get some food and drinks at the local supermarket first, so you can enjoy a picnic on board as you admire Europe’s beautiful scenery.
Many European stations have lockers or a left luggage office where you can leave your belongings for as long as you want. This way you can easily explore towns and villages along your route, even just for a few hours.
If you’re traveling with a 1st class Eurail pass, regional trains are your best friend. Many regional trains offer comfortable 1st class cars with plenty of seats available.
You can use the Eurail timetable to plan your journey with regional trains. Simply check the box ‘Avoid trains that require a reservation’. You will now only see regional trains and those InterCity and EuroCity trains that don’t require a reservation.
Need some help coming up with a route? Get inspired by our European travel itineraries.
Download the free Rail Planner App, allowing you to check train times on the go. The timetable is available offline, so you don’t need to be connected to the internet.