How to Catch a Paris Berlin Train and Travel Old School

Travelling in style on the City Night Line source: D-Bahn

In an age of cheap airline flights it is easy to forget that there is another, slower, way to travel that lets one imbibe the feel of a country in a way that hopping from airport to airport just doesn’t capture. When I’m given the choice and the time, I much prefer to travel by train and the overnight Paris Berlin Train is a journey that everyone should try to experience at least once in their lives (along with the Orient Express, the Blue Train in South Africa and, heck, the list just goes on).

Taking a Paris Berlin train is a leisurely way to travel that takes you right across the heart of Europe. You have two main options when doing it. You can either catch a high-speed train that would complete the journey in 8-10 hours, usually with one stop or you can take a more leisurely night train with a sleeper coach.


Fast trains from Paris to Berlin

There is a variety of options and connections that could take you through Brussels, Dusseldorf, Mannheim or Frankfurt. The fewer stops and changes the better.

A trip such as this would usually be on a combination of fast French trains (TGF) and fast German trains (the ICE). These are modern, fast trains that eat up the kilometres. It can be a slightly weird experience on an ICE to walk down the carriage past a speedometer (they have big digital speedometers at the ends of each carriage) and discover that your smooth-flowing train is actually screaming along at 200 kilometres an hour or faster.

These trips will often be more expensive than a super-cheap low cost flight. That’s the bad news. With flights coming in at €30-40 it is hard to beat such low prices. But if you book in advance you can get a cheap train fare of about €100. Since small children travel for free (whereas on airlines kids pay full fare from the age of 2) you can balance the price out as a family with two small children. If you don’t book in advance and get a discounted ticket you will end up paying closer to €200 for your train ticket from Paris to Berlin.

Overnight Trains from Paris to Berlin

The more languid option is to  catch an overnight train from Paris to Berlin. This is usually known as the City Night Line. The journey usually takes about 12-14 hours and is comfortable and pleasant way to travel. The CNL trains are pretty comfortable and their timetables are usually quite civilized with trains departing in the evening and then sometimes being held in a siding for a few hours in the very early morning to avoid arrivals before 5 or 6 in the morning.

The cheapest option for a great night’s sleep is a four-berth or  sleeper coach. This are a little crowded but are really comfortable. There is something about being rocked to sleep by a train that makes overnight journeys so special. You could travel more cheaply in a standard seat or six-berth sleeper too. And if you are travelling on business and need to arrive refreshed and groomed, or just have the cash, you could spring for a single sleeper in first class. These have washbasins or showers and for business meetings in the morning are a far nicer way to travel than to catch a crack of dawn flight that leaves you exhausted and grumpy.

How to catch a Paris Berlin Train

It is easy to book tickets either using the Deutsche Bahn website (which I have demonstrated below) or using the Rail Europe site, which is also user-friendly and easy to navigate.

The first thing you need to do is go to the Deutsche Bahn website which you can find in English here.

Select your language preference and then enter your city of departure and arrival.

After that it gets pretty simple. Just scroll down and find a train you want. Be sure to check the number of connections and the type of train. If you want the city night line then look for CNL.

The rest is pretty self explanatory.

So that’s it, travelling to Berlin need not just be about catching a cramped flight. You can go overnight, in style, with supper and beer on board, by catching a Paris Berlin train.


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