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Holiday train trip

My family of 4, (husband, two daughters ages 25 and 21, and myself) will be traveling by train from Vienna to Madrid from December 26-31. Thinking of possible stops in Salzburg, Interlaken, Paris, Avignon, Barcelona, and arriving for New Years Eve in Madrid. Does anyone have different suggestions for stops? Should I plan through or should I do point to point ticket purchases? Thank you for your help.

Posted by
6898 posts

Kitty, am I seeing that you plan on visiting 7 cities in 4 different countries in six days? Have you plotted out the train travel time for these segments? Just to take the trains to these locations adds 32-35hrs of train travel to your plan (I checked). Add in unpacking, packing, travel to/from the train station and dinners, and you have used up almost 2 of your 6 days. Most of your pictures will be from the train window.

Posted by
6485 posts

I agree, this is way too ambitious if you want to see anything beyond trains and their stations. Are you thinking of spending one night in each of those five cities after Vienna and before Madrid? Paris, really? I'd rethink this itinerary and pick fewer stopovers. is a ticket-buying service, you can get point-to-point tickets through them or directly from the railways. I'm no rail expert, but most posters here seem to believe raileurope charges too much. You may be thinking of a railpass, which is an alternative to point-to-point that might or might not make sense in your case. Others can help you more.

Posted by
32198 posts

Kitty, Given the distances between the various places you mentioned, visiting five places between Vienna and Madrid in a time frame of five days is going to be virtually impossible. My suggestion would be to use a budget flight from Vienna to Barcelona, spend several days there and then take the AVE to Madrid. I believe Vueling has flights on that route on 26 December, but given that it's the holiday season, it would be a good idea to book early! Travelling that distance by rail will NOT be any fun! Happy travels!

Posted by
11294 posts

Forget you ever heard the term "Rail Europe." They are a reseller, they do not sell tickets for all trains, they do not list all trains, and they mark up the tickets (sometimes substantially). To look at rail schedules for all of Europe, use the Bahn (German rail) website, following Rick's tutorial: The Bahn site will only have prices for trains that start or end in Germany. To find prices, follow the directions on this page from The Man In Seat 61, How to buy European train tickets online for any given journey : Remember that it's not just train time; you also have to allow time for getting between the station and your hotel. A good rule of thumb is to assume you lose a half day between close cities (like Madrid and Barcelona), and most of a day between farther apart ones (particularly at that time of the year, when the daylight hours are short).

Posted by
2829 posts

This is unworkable, unless you want to stay inside trains all the time. If you want some scenic winter train ride, I'd take a train from Wien to Innsbruck day one, early in the morning. Day 2 I'd travel to Chur. Day 3 I'd travel to St. Moritz. Day 4 I'd travel to Zermatt and stay there day 5 as well. Day 6 I'd go to Geneva, Milano Malpena or Zurich airports and take a flight to Madrid from there (wherever it is more convenient to). Other alternative is take a train Wien-Innsbruck day 1, a second train Innsbruck-Zermatt day 2, stay there day 3, fly from Geneva/Milano/Zurich to Barcelona, stay there days 4-5 as well and then take a train to Madrid day 6.

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you all so much for your suggestions, and especially for the websites. This helps so much. We have these 6 days to get from Vienna to Madrid and we love scenic train rides. My original intent was only to stop for a few hours for a look in a few of these stops and spend the night in others. But it does seem too complicated and you've convinced me to look into some alternatives involving flights. I welcome any more suggestions and again, thank you.