What to expect on a City Night Line train

During my ventures across Europe over the past 9 months, I have embarked on many City Night Line trains. This has been as both a means to get to/from Germany, and also as a way to cross Europe cheaply and efficiently. In most cases if you want to travel by rail from East to Western Europe, or vise versa, you have to cross through Germany which is positioned right in the middle, and is also a main transport hub in Europe.

Booking through the bahn.de website (the national German railway line), I was able to get journeys for as little as €29 one way from Paris to Munich, and €39 one way for Cologne to Prague. This was all booked at least a month in advance, was by picking the cheapest seats available (usually in a seated or couchette compartment.) It was always on the City Night Line night trains. When you consider that these prices are including all taxes, fees, luggage included, and that you are saving on one nights accommodation, it really is the cheapest way to travel Europe in my opinion.

So what can you expect on a City Night Line train?

First off, it will depend on what type of ticket you have purchased. The 3 most common types available are seated, couchette, and sleeper tickets.


In most cases when booking a seated ticket you will usually be placed in a 6 seater booth that looks something like this;

Typically in these compartments you will have an overhead rack area to place your luggage, a small bin, a small table, and not really much else. It is fairly basic, but prices are usually very cheap, and if you are lucky enough to be in a compartment that is fairly empty, which I have been on many occasions, then you may be able to lie out on the seats for most or the entirety of your journey.

 Occasionally you may find that you are placed into a reclining seat, in a more open plan format, such as that pictured to the left. These types of seats are only available on some trains. The last 7 City Night Line trains I have taken, only 1 of them has had these types of seats available. However, I must say they are more comfortable than the 6 seater booths, for the simple reason that the seats tend to be wider, and they recline!


Couchettes are usually more expensive than seated compartments, however are cheaper than a regular sleeper ticket. On my last City Night Line journey I took the couchette option, as despite costing me around €40 more for my ticket, for longer distances this was much more comfortable than the typical seated berth. Just being able to lie out, and have a pillow & blanket was such a huge improvement to comfort on the train, and for once I was able to have a proper sleep. Couchettes tend to come in either 4-bed or 6-bed compartments, with 6-bed compartments usually being cheaper. If you are staying in one of the 6-beds, getting up onto the top bunk can be a bit of a tight squeeze, so if you want more room I would advise going for the 4-bed compartments, but for most average backpackers in my opinion you would be aswell taking the cheaper option of the two.



The Sleeper tickets are definitely the most comfortable option for travelling on a City Night Line train, however they are also the most expensive. Occasionally, you do see tickets for the sleeper compartments for as little as 90€, however on most occasions I have found tickets to be much more than this. For the best possible deal you really have to go for the seated compartments in order to make it worth you while vs the cost of a flight, but if flying is not your thing, and you have the cash to splash, then below if what you can expect from a sleeper carriage. Typically this will also include a small breakfast, and little added pieces of service such as checking your ticket upon entry, so your sleep is not disturbed by ticket inspections. All compartments have 220V sockets for laptops, phones etc (you don’t have this in the general seated areas), and there tends to be more room for luggage here too.


On certain trains you may find that there is a bistro cart, which is used to serve breakfast to sleeper passengers, however this is not always the case, and sometimes breakfast is simply served to sleeper passengers in their cart. On all occasions I have travelled City Night Line trains there has been a standard trolley cart that comes along where you can buy cold snacks and drinks. On all City Night Line trains however, you are allowed to bring on food and drink as you please. This is something I would recommend, especially for the more long distance journeys.

4 Responses to “What to expect on a City Night Line train”

  1. Steve says:

    Were those prices for “seated” travel?

    When we were in Spain, I looked into an overnight sleeper between Barcelona and Granada. Then, I went to the English website of Iberia to compare prices.

    I decided to then check Iberia’s Spanish website since I have a rudimentary comprehension of Spanish and wanted some “practice.” Whoa…! The airfare ont eh Spanish site was much cheaper than the English site and cheaper than the sleeper. So we flew.

  2. Wow, I had never heard of the City Night Line Trains. Love train travel though, we did an Amtrak two week rail pass last year. Thanks for the tip.


  1. […] What to expect on a city night line train – This sure brings back memories.  There used to be so many more overnight trains, with or without berths all throughout Europe.  Now with all the flight choices, cheap budget airlines and superfast bullet trains, you see less and less of them.  I like to still travel them IF I have the time.  There is just something about rail travel that can be so…intoxicating.  If you ever wondered what it was like or what the different choices are, be sure to read on. […]

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