Train journeys in Europe that are faster than flying

About to book a flight? Wait. One. Second. Have you considered traveling by train instead?

You'll be surprised at how fast trains can get you across Europe. Image credit: Pinkypills/iStock
You’ll be surprised at how fast trains can get you across Europe. Image credit: Pinkypills/iStock

With today’s abundance of affordable and frequent flights, it’s easy to forget to check train routes before you jump online and book a flight.

Europe has an excellent train network, with many high-speed routes between the continent’s major cities. And once you factor in check-in time and travel to and from the airport, many of these routes take around the same time as flying, or in some cases, can even be significantly faster.

Train travel is an enjoyable mode of transport, with ample legroom and diverse landscapes to be enjoyed as you travel from place to place. It’s also more environmentally friendly, as train travel generally produces far fewer carbon emissions than flying. According to, taking the train from London to Manchester produces just .01 tonnes of CO2, while the equivalent journey by plane produces 0.04 tonnes. 

We’ve done the research for you and found some of the most popular journeys through Europe where train travel is faster than flying. Total travel times for each journey include check-in, travel time, and transit time by car between the airport/train station and popular hotel areas in each city.

London, UK, to Paris, France

London is a bustling city, with four major airports dotted around its perimeter. Even if you’re lucky enough to be flying out of Heathrow Airport, the most accessible of the four, getting there can take more than an hour by car if the traffic is against you. Do yourself a favor, and book a ticket on the Eurostar next time you’re traveling from London to Paris. The high-speed train passes from the UK to France via the subterranean channel tunnel and is a unique and surreal experience worthy of any traveler’s bucket list.

Travel time between London’s Soho district and Paris’ 1st arrondissement

Madrid to Valencia, Spain

If you’re heading from Spain’s capital to the laid-back, beach-adjacent city of Valencia, then traveling by high-speed bullet train is by far the best option. The Spanish government has been investing heavily in their train network in recent years, and it’s now possible to travel between many of Spain’s cities in record time. The route from Madrid to Valencia takes you through the Picturesque Spanish countryside, dropping you close to Valencia’s Ciutat Vella, known as the “Old Town”, where you’ll find many of the city’s best paella restaurants and bars.

Travel time between Madrid’s La Latina neighborhood, and Valencia’s Ciutat Vella

Rome to Bologna, Italy

Spain isn’t the only country in Europe with a comprehensive high-speed rail network, and the journey between Italy’s capital city, Rome, and the medieval town of Bologna is often faster and more convenient than flying. Italy’s high-speed rail is operated by privately owned Italotreno, and you can upgrade to Prima Class or Club Executive class for just a few extra euro on top of the base fare. Relax in your leather reclining seat, with free Wi-Fi, snacks, and drinks, as you cruise comfortably through central Italy.

Travel time between Rome’s central Trevi neighborhood and Bologna Centro Storico

Berlin to Hamburg, Germany

Considering Berlin and Hamburg are Germany’s two most populated cities, it’s somewhat surprising that there are no direct flights between the two. In 2004 the rail system that connects them was upgraded, and the journey by train is now so fast, efficient, and affordable, that it’s significantly speedier than flying. The equivalent journey by air takes almost twice as long, and includes a stopover in either Cologne or Dusseldorf (if you’re lucky), or even further afield if you book at the last minute.

Travel time between Berlin Mitte and Hamburg Altstadt

Manchester to London, UK

The Richard Branson-owned Virgin Trains company has a lightning-fast rail service, which makes traveling between London and Manchester considerably faster and more convenient than flying. Book online in advance for the best ticket prices, and treat yourself to a first-class upgrade. You’ll enjoy complimentary drinks and snacks, spacious and comfortable seats, and an entertainment system to help pass the time.

Travel time between Manchester’s Northern Quarter and London’s Covent Garden


Grace Catherine

Grace is a freelance writer and digital project manager from New Zealand currently based in Mexico City. She is an avid traveler who loves destinations with an eclectic history, a bike-sharing scheme, and plenty of cool animals.