European Rail Adventure to Berlin, Prague & Vienna
I love to travel by train, it’s such a relaxing form of transport. No sitting in traffic jams, missing your turn off or having to listen to the Sat Nav say ’make a U turn’. Instead you can sit back and enjoy the view from your seat, grab a meal in the onboard dining car or feast in your spacious carriage at your own table with the delicious picnic you brought onboard having shopped the various deli’s in the station. There’s a lot to love about train travel and I’ve been a fan for sometime!
My trip began with a flight into Berlin Tegel Airport and the bus into the city centre costing EUR 2.80 which took about 30 minutes. Our hotel for the first two nights was the NH Collection Friedrichstrasse, a modern hotel in a prime position right on one of the city’s main shopping streets with a number of restaurants close by. The hotel was only a 10-15 minute walk from the Reichstag and Brandenburg Gate but there was a train and tram line just outside the hotel to make getting around the city very easy. We ticked off all the major sights but certainly one to highlight is the Topography of Terror Museum next to the last remaining section of the Berlin Wall in the city. Plan to spend at least 2 hours here as there is a very informative and sobering exhibit. There are lots of sausage stalls in Berlin selling the famous ‘curry wurst’ so make sure to give it a try or if you prefer a more upmarket version try out ‘The Big Dog’ for some gourmet hot dogs – yum! Overall we found Berlin to be a very clean city were the inhabitants showed a rigid respect for the pedestrian traffic lights!!
Day 3 we boarded the train at Berlin Main Station for our 5 ½ hour journey to Prague travelling in first class. The main difference between first and second class is the layout of the carriage. In first class the seats are 1 + 2 so just 3 across which gives you a wider seat and a bit of extra space. The second class trains are 2 + 2 so there are more people in the carriage but the level of comfort is still good.
On arrival into Prague we were able to walk to our hotel in about 15 minutes and our home for the next two nights was the Hilton Old Town Prague. The hotel is exceptionally well located, just a 5-minute walk from the Powder Tower and a further 5 minutes onto the Astronomical Clock. On our first evening we managed to get tickets to see a classical concert in one of the elaborately adorned churches just off the main square (remember to barter hard on the price) which was a lovely experience. The following day we made our way to Prague Castle for a look around and then walked back into the city across the famous Charles Bridge. The old town side of Prague has a real charm about it with the cobbled streets and unique architecture, for me this is the place to stay but make sure to pack sensible walking shoes! You will see on most streets’ shops selling ‘Trdelnik’, a warm, sweet, sugary hollow pastry which can be filled with various toppings – I had one with melted chocolate inside! Delicious…..
On Day 5 we boarded our train for the 4 ½ hour journey to Vienna, travelling in second class, the train was quiet so we had a large table and 4 chairs to ourselves. Our hotel for the next 3 nights was the 4* Leonardo, in a good location with an underground stop less than 2 minutes’ walk away and it was positioned at the end of the main shopping street in Vienna. The hotel itself was quite good although in some areas the décor could do with a refresh. Vienna is a city of 2 halves, you have the commercial Mariahilfer Street where all the big brand name shops are and then you have the Rathaus or the Town Hall area where there are grand architecturally amazing buildings and manicured gardens. Take a detour to Café Central to try some of the most divine cakes you have ever seen, be prepared to queue to get inside but it is worth it! Make your way to Stephansplatz and go inside the church where you can buy a ticket for EUR 6 to take you in a lift up the bell tower where you can get out and have a walk around and see some fabulous views of the city. A visit to Vienna would not be complete without a trip to Schonbrunn Palace which is easily accessible by train from the city centre. There are various tours you can do of the imperial rooms which are very well preserved. Plan to visit on a nice day as the grounds around the palace are worth a look, as is the Palm House.
On our last day we took the CATS train just 16 minutes from the city centre back to the airport for our flight home having thoroughly enjoyed our whirlwind trip through 3 countries.
Mandy’s Top Tips:
Book well in advance – not only are you best placed to get cheap flights you will also save on the train tickets.
Pre Book your seats on the train, often this doesn’t cost too much extra and you get to choose which direction you want to face when travelling or if you want a seat with a fixed table at it.
Mandy’s Favourite Train Journeys:
VIA Rail from Halifax to Vancouver
Trans Mongolian Express from Beijing, Mongolia & Russia