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France: the Best Train Trips and Cities for Food

by Betsy Autran, posted 16 January 2018 | 2 comments

Yesterday the French rail operator SNCF opened their 2018 spring ticket sales for departures up to May 22nd, so we decided to whet your appetite for travel and feed you a soupçon of inspiration for tantalising train journeys this season.

If you’ve noticed a theme here, it should be said that we’ve got a deadline to get this blog post in before lunchtime, don’t underestimate the power of an empty stomach!

We’d like to suggest that you let your belly be your guide across France, the land of plenty. Here are some suggestions for alluring train journeys and tempting reasons to book them.

Lille

Lille, United Kingdom - August 28, 2013: Panorama of Lille Grand Palais with some tourists in the foreground. There are cobered seating areas outside the restaurants and cars travelling at the bottom of the shot.

Lille, France is a charming city just one hour from Paris by train.

If you’re planning to spend some time in Paris, you’ve perhaps considered a day trip to a nearby city to see what lies just beyond the holy périphérique. Our suggestion for today: Lille!

Lille is only a brief one-hour train ride from Paris Gare du Nord, and there are plenty of coach journeys throughout the day as well, if you want to take it just a tad slower. We have consulted our Lillois colleagues to find the best that Lille has to offer! You can rest assured that there is plenty to keep you busy and sated in this delightful city.

In the north of France, a welcome attitude towards travellers and hearty food is strong. Since spring is still a tad bit chilly up north, you’ll need to get yourself into a cozy traditional French restaurant like Le Chat dans l’Horloge and order yourself Le Welsh.

The Welsh is a French variation on Welsh Rarebit. You’ve got all the important features: bread, cheese, ham, cheese, a little mustard, and more cheese with an egg perched lightly atop it all like a happy little hen. This hot and gooey bowl of deliciousness will heat you up on any drizzly day. Like the people of Lille, it is warm and welcoming and will treat you kindly.

Another Flemish favourite is Carbonnade, a rich and hearty dish of beef stewed in beer with onions, mushrooms, and even spiced bread thrown into the cooking pot. If you’d like to keep it light and you’re feeling less traditional, we’d recommend ordering a side salad instead of fries (we’re just kidding, you can have both!).

If you enjoy strong cheese, you should order anything with Maroilles while you’re in Lille as it’s produced in this region.

A french Maroilles semi-soft unpasturised cheese from Flanders in France

Maroilles, a yummy (strong) semi-soft unpasturised cheese from northern France.

Afterwards you may want to take a walk to see the sights and find a tasty treat for dessert. Gaufres Flamandes (Flemish waffles), are a thinner and lighter cousin of the traditional waffle. Kind of like the crèpe of the waffle world. There are two places where you must try these delectable treats: Meert and Aux Merveilleux de Fred. If you’re low on time, go for Meert. Aux Merveilleux de Fred also has a presence in Paris and it’s not to be missed.

Toulouse

Along the Garonne river at Toulouse city before sunset in France

Toulouse, France: the Pink City.

You may have plans to head to sunnier climates, in which case you should really consider Toulouse, the Pink City. From Paris, Toulouse is a 4-hour daytime ride, or there’s also a night train that departs at around 21:00 and arrives at 06:00—just in time for breakfast!

Toulouse is a charming city with many buildings made from red brick—a far cry from the beautiful but monochromatic Haussmann architecture of Paris. Space science enthusiasts will appreciate Toulouse as it’s home to The National Institute of Aeronautics and Space. But history buffs won’t be left out! Toulouse is also home to two UNESCO World Heritage sites: the grand Saint-Sernin Basilica and the Canal du Midi. It’s a city with one foot in the past and one in the future.

But onto more important matters: what does one eat in Toulouse?

If you curl around the winding streets of Toulouse after dark, your nose may lead you to a door from which emanates the savoury smells of meaty southern stew, braised duck, foie gras, and sizzling sausage. Welcome to the Cave of Cassoulet. Do not be put off by the mysterious narrow and uneven staircase which winds down into a basement closed off by an old curtain from grandma’s closet—trust the olfactory and pass right through to get yourself a big steaming bowl of Cassoulet.

Cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooked stew and a force to be reckoned with. It’s a total inundation of pork sausage, goose, duck, pork skin, mutton, and white beans bubbling up like a veritable cornucopia of cuisine, typically served by the heaping ladleful into an earthenware pot.

Classic French bean and sausage casserole seasoned with herbs de provence in natural light.

Cassoulet comes in many variations, all of them absolutely delicious.

For desserts, the Pink City presents extraordinary sweets in a flavour unlike any other: the delicate violet. From cookies to cakes and candies and liqueurs, you will find a bouquet of goodies with hints of the aromatic little petals of violet flowers.

Lyon

Lyon cityscape from Saone river with colorful houses and river, France

The Lyon cityscape along the Saone river.

Lyon is an incredible city and is just a 2-hour TGV ride from Paris. It sits in the perfect spot in France where you are only a train ride away from skiing in the Alps, sunbathing on the beaches of Côte d’Azur, or hiking in the myriad of national parks that surround the entire region. And when it comes to cuisine, Lyon is considered the food capital of the world. The Lyonnais are a lucky and spoiled bunch.

Sit down for lunch in any traditional Lyonnais “bouchon” (a type of restaurant specific to this region) and you won’t be disappointed by the food and wine. Lyon will also surprise you with a handful of excellent beer bars boasting a massive selection of brews. It’s a city without limitations as far as gastronomic pleasures go.

Brioche aux pralines roses ( spécialité culinaire de Lyon, dessert)

Brioche aux pralines, a speciality of Lyon.

But what we’d like for you to try are the dazzling pink gems found on fluffy pastries in the display windows of Lyonnais bakeries: pralines. Carmelised almonds that come in a vivid shade of hot fuchsia pink, supposedly inspired by rose gardens of the Rhône region. If you have a sweet tooth, any brioche aux pralines will set your tastebuds ablaze with sweet pink passion. The treat is so popular you’ll find many other delights coming in variations à la praline including ice cream, meringue (another typical French treat), and chocolate mousse.

Bonus: Picturesque Picnics

If you’ve ever walked past a French park or green space on a good weather day, it’s no secret that the French will seize any opportunity to throw a good picnic. And picnic food is something else they’re doing very right: baguettes, cheese, charcuterie, wine, and pâtisseries lurk around every corner of any city.

If you’re interested in taking your train travel experience to the next level, consider one of France’s many picturesque train routes like the La Ligne Cévenol or La Ligne des Hirondelles.

La Ligne Cévenol

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Viaduct of Villefort on La Ligne Cévenol between Clermont-Ferrand and Nîmes.

This train between Clermont-Ferrand and Nîmes will bring you through breathtaking landscapes of the Cévennes, a mountainous region in south central France. The route is famous for the majestic views that can be seen from its windows, and it slows down during certain parts of the journey to allow passengers to fully enjoy the experience. It passes through tunnels and over stunning viaducts like those of Fontannes and Chapeauroux, through the remarkable Allier Valley, past the dazzling gorges of Langeac, up to its highest point at La Bastide-Puylaurent, and then downward into the extraordinary and historical city of Nîmes.

It is permitted to eat on this train, so you could swing by a cheese shop, a charcuterie, and a bakery in Clermont-Ferrand before departure and fill your basket with plenty of gourmet enticements for the ride. Or alternatively, you could have a picnic in the departure or arrival cities: there’s Jardin Lecoq in Clermont-Ferrand and Jardins de la Fontaine in Nîmes,  surely one of the most impressive parks in all of France.

Note: due to rail work on La Ligne Cévenol from February 18th until March 2nd, the final three stops between Alès and Nîmes are temporarily operated by bus. The train still provides a 4.5-hour ride through the majesty of the Cévennes.

La Ligne des Hirondelles

High angle view landscape of Bugey mountains, from beginning of Jura in France, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region. There is an old stone viaduct from Cize-Bolozon villages crossing Ain river in the valley. Arch bridge architecture under bright full moon, moonlight in summer with beautiful blue clear star sky, with milky way from space. This viaduct is a combination rail and vehicular, connecting the communes of Cize and Bolozon. An original span built in the same location in 1875 was destroyed in World War II. Reconstructed as an urgent post-war project due to its position on a main line to Paris, the new viaduct reopened in May 1950. It carries road and rail traffic at different levels.

The Viaduct of Cize-Bolozon located in Jura, France.

This route is called “The Line of the Swallows” in French because those who watched the workers build the viaducts of Morbier and Morez said that workers were befriending the swallows at such great heights!

This train that runs between Dole and Saint-Claude provides a gorgeous ride through 36 tunnels and across 18 viaducts nestled in the impressive forests and mountains of Jura. You are guaranteed outstanding views of sweeping hills, rivers, vineyards, and valleys as well as the admirable architecture of the historic viaducts. It is an otherworldly experience that too few tourists get to see during their stay in France.

Just like most French trains, you can pack a lunch to bring along if you wish. Consider gathering goodies at Les Halles de Dole, a covered market that opens on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings where you can find fresh fish caught in the local rivers or buy products from local honey producers like pain d’épices, a sweet spice bread most popular around Christmas.

Around Saint-Claude, you have many paths to explore where you can find a quiet spot under the lush forest canopy and eat to your heart’s content. If you’re not feeling so green, there are charming little restaurants freckling this town, you won’t go hungry.

Every good meal must come to an end

We hope that this full course meal has satisfied your hunger for ideas and that you’ll find yourself on one of these trains very soon, propelled towards the promise of great food, superb views, and even better desserts.

If you have any questions about booking these journeys, don’t hesitate to contact us.

LEO Express Czech tickets now at Trainline

by Betsy Autran, posted 04 January 2018 | Add comment

Photo of Buildings and Streets of Prague, Czech Republic

Put Prague on your Czech list this year

Czech it out! We now sell tickets for the private carrier LEO Express, which operates trains and coaches all over the Czech Republic (also known as Czechia) and even to some destinations in neighbouring countries.

All aboard the LEO Express!

LEO Express is a young private company founded in 2010. The company launched its first train down a track that connects Prague to Ostrava in 2012. Now they operate trains from Prague to Košice in Slovakia and Leo Express also offers a fleet of coaches between many cities, including some beyond Czech borders.

LEO Express trains

LEO Express trains offer 3 classes, like many train carriers do today:

  • Economy Class, the equivalent to a classic second class. This includes WiFi, a movie and games portal, and on board cafe-restaurant.
  • Business Class, which includes food and a beverage in the ticket price, as well as a more comfortable and roomy interior.
  • Premium class, which includes fully reclining seats with built-in massagers, in-seat meal service, and access to a convenient parking space near the Prague train station.

For families, Leo Express trains also have a children’s compartment. Going by the official photo of their site, it looks like the ticket inspectors disguise themselves in an adorable mascot costume to visit kids in these happy compartments.

LEO Express coaches

Some coaches also offer two classes of comfort: Classic and Business. The differences between the two classes are more or less the same as on the trains: Business Class offers more space between each seat and a few other bonuses like: a sleep kit akin to what you’d receive from an airline and non-alcoholic beverages included in the ticket price.

Visit the Czech Republic on a tight budget

If Prague is the only city that comes to mind when you think of the Czech Republic, LEO Express will expand your horizons with inexpensive train and coach tickets to other cities throughout this beautiful country.

For the railway line, tickets between Prague and Olomouc start at only 5 Euro. A bargain for a travel time of 2 hours!

Old town of Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic, UNESCO World Culture Heritage site

The very charming town of Český Krumlov

Coaches offer a great sightseeing opportunity: the beautiful Pilsen (or Plzeň) is less than an hour and a half from Prague, with tickets that start at 2.70 Euro. The chance to save money on the ride to enjoy a local Pilsner fresh from the brewery is irresistible. You can also visit Český Krumlov and see a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From Prague, LEO Express will take you there in less than three hours by coach, for only 7 Euro!

Praguebility is high this year

Today, LEO Express trains and coaches connect 81 cities in 8 different countries: in addition to the Czech Republic, you can travel to Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, and Ukraine.

Map of LEO Express network

But wait, there’s Locomore!

You may have heard about Locomore, the German rail operator financed in part by crowdfunding that linked Berlin and Stuttgart for a while (via Hanover, Frankfurt, or Heidelberg). We admired the initiative and were fervent supporters of their beautiful orange carriages. We were saddened when we caught news of the company’s bankruptcy last May so it is with absolute pleasure that we welcome this new announcement: since August 24th 2017, traffic has resumed on this line following a partnership between LEO Express and Flixbus.

That’s not all: Locomore tickets are now available in Trainline’s search results!

We’re happy to offer you more options to travel between Berlin and Stuttgart: high-speed and regional trains operated by the German rail carrier Deutsche Bahn, Flixbus coaches, and now Locomore long-distance trains.

To a new year and furthering frontiers!

Looking back on 2017 at Trainline

by Betsy Autran, posted 26 December 2017 | Add comment

header_600x300_2017-en-1

The holiday season is about many things: filling our gullets with as much pudding and pumpkin pie as possible of course, but it’s also about spending time with those we love and reminiscing about the good times we’ve shared together.

In January 2017 we made some special resolutions that we’ve successfully realised, and we’d like to celebrate a few of those victories with you. We’ve always had you in our hearts and in our minds while pursuing our greatest ambitions. Pull up a chair, let’s get cosy, roast some chestnuts over a warm fire, and reflect.

Staying young at heart

Between December 2016 and January 2017 we worked on a super secret mission to offer free youth tickets with TGVMax on the day of its official release, both on our website and mobile apps. This was a big achievement for us and a momentous opportunity for travellers between the ages of 16-27.

We have certainly made good use of it ourselves! Those in our offices who subscribed to TGVMax have toured hundreds of thousands of kilometres throughout the countryside of France, mainly on their way from Paris to sunnier climates (who can blame them?).

youngin-on-train

Taking it to the TGVMax.

Equality for all

After months of what seemed like showing a preference towards our Android users, we made it possible for iPhone and iPad users to access everything they need on the iOS app as well. We weren’t playing favourites, of course. Some trains just move a little faster than others.

We also launched a lite version of our mobile booking experience for those who lack space on their phones and can’t possibly erase those 375 photos of Conrad, their adorable British Shorthair mix.

Helping you stay one train ahead

Last July we were able to connect to APIs for delays and cancellations of French SNCF trains. It was also the perfect opportunity to build a tiny departures board of our own in the app to view SNCF trains in real time. We passed a lot of time watching trains come and go with you. 🍿

Fine-tuning our instrument

We adapted our specially designed product for enterprises—Trainline for Business—to better suit the needs of our professional train bookers.

Version 1.0 was already very affordable with all the bells and whistles included, but you’ll be happy to know that the newest version offers a free subscription as well. If you weren’t already aware that we offer a product for businesses, you have quite a gift awaiting you under the tree this holiday season.

To all of Europe and beyond

We have always stuck firmly to our goal of offering train tickets throughout all of Europe and then some… and then all.

Starting with tickets from the private Austrian carrier WESTbahn, we made our big breakthrough into Austrian territory this year. This really opened doors for us in the way of eating more strudel.

2017 was additionally the year of coaches (the ones on wheels). We started selling tickets for 45 new coach companies since January. Forty-five! Our developers specialising in coach travel have not been idling. Most coaches we offer are sailing smoothly around Spain, but the last few arrivals in our search results cover airport-to-city centre connections in Paris, Rome, as well as others.

likeabus

Speaking the same language

Finally, we became polyglots this summer and translated our site and apps in 9 new languages, from Brazilian Portuguese to Mandarin Chinese. We also cashed in on the opportunity to display fares in 15 foreign currencies. Pretty practical if you’re curious about the price in Yen for your ticket to Zermatt this Christmas.

yen

You’re Yen for a treat.

Wrapping it up

We hope that you enjoyed these gifts as much as we delighted in preparing them for you. We’ll see you in the year 2018. We will continue to set our sights high but our fares low, and we hope you’ll be a part of our continuing happy story. And by the way, we’d love to hear yours.

SNCF Winter Sales Open on October 12th

by Malin Schibler, posted 05 October 2017 | Add comment

christmas_1200x600

Ah, October. The time of year, where supermarkets and shopping malls are all already eagerly getting into the festivities of Christmas. It seems that this year, SNCF has also taken on this merry spirit and will soon release their train tickets for the upcoming winter holiday period. So you can be sure to get your hands on these tickets before you even begin carving out your pumpkin for Halloween!

What’s better than December 25th? October 12th!

Mid-October traditionally calls for the sale of tickets for the holiday season (at least for SNCF trains). This year, the tickets will go on sale on Thursday, October 12th, and you’ll be able to book journeys starting December 10, 2017 to January 12, 2018. As usual, you will have to get up early (or stay up late – depending on your timezone) if you want to get the cheapest tickets. Like always, they go like hotcakes and are sold on a first come, first served basis. There is no set time announced for the sale, though we suggest to be ready to book by 06:00 in the morning (Central European Time).

We highly recommend that you set yourself a reminder to avoid missing out on this sale – and most importantly – getting your hands on the lowest priced tickets available. Since we are always thinking of you and would very much dislike seeing you being late to the game, we’ve created a reminder event to add to your calendar. So make sure you add it, set an alarm and get ready to start booking your winter holiday tickets!

Working with External services

by Nicolas Gonzalez, posted 26 September 2017 | Add comment

Trainline Europe’s search API is a cornerstone of our product, as an online train and bus ticket booking platform. The search API is responsible for fetching and aggregating results from the carriers’ APIs. Without it, we couldn’t display train schedules, and we wouldn’t be able to sell tickets. We are always trying to make it perform better, and we always make sure it highlights the most practical results for our customers.

One of my missions when I joined Trainline was to make sure the connection to external services (like carriers’ APIs) wouldn’t put our entire search API at risk. The purpose was to take the code of the carriers off the main application, then run this code in the context of small workers that consume less resources. These workers must be efficient at what they do, we should be able to start as many of them as we need to, and the part of the code connecting to external services should be isolated, which can’t be bad: if anything were to happen, we would rather see a carrier worker fail than the whole application.

A tour of our infrastructure

We use a Rails application to back a EmberJS frontend. So far nothing unusual, the Rails app is connected to RabbitMQ, user searches are sent to another application built with EventMachine, each payload is consumed and search results are returned to the Rails app. What is described in this blog post concerns the Ruby EM / Search API.

Diagram representing our infrastructure.

Setting timeouts: A primitive form of control on external services

Sometimes the services we need to contact are down or very slow, and when one of these services is not accessible, we don’t want to compromise the whole application.
For example if the user searches for Paris -> Madrid, we need to contact both SNCF and Renfe, and if one of these APIs is not working we need to display a comprehensive error for the user, asking to try again later. We can’t have the applications hanging while users searches accumulate.
Setting timeouts in the HTTP requests is important, but we realized early on that we needed more control over each of these services.

Diagram representing how search results work

Splitting the application

We decided to extract the code belonging to each carrier, and run it in standalone, meaning we can have instances of the app running only the carrier’s code. These instances consume less RAM: around 280MB vs. 450MB for the whole app. Since we’re able to know how many searches we have for each country, we can set a number of instances of the application accordingly: if we have 50% of searches with a French origin and destination, we know we’ll need 50% of our workers to be SNCF.
We achieved that with Ansible and Monit. When deploying, Monit configuration is regenerated with an Ansible template. We just have to update Ansible Yaml files to set the number of workers on the servers.

Diagram representing how search results work with workers.

Example of Ansible deployment settings:

Ansible settings

Going live: what could possibly go wrong

Before launching the split of our Search application for a specific carrier, we were all happy and pressed the “deploy” button. Clients were starting to receive search responses handled by our splitted app and it was great. However something unexpected happened.

We use RabbitMQ to communicate between the applications, and by creating a new
layer of service-specific instances of the search API, we increased the amount
of messages exchanged. The way channels and queues are recycled was not done
properly so the amount of TCP connections to the queue exploded and RabbitMQ crashed.

Conclusion

Setting timeouts is very important when contacting HTTP services but completely isolating the code was the real answer for us. With this setup we can adjust the number of workers for each service according to our traffic. We can also dispatch the workers on servers with varying degrees of performance. We also know that if anything happens, the main application won’t be compromised. In short, it’s an invisible step for you, our customer, but a big step forward for our search API.

It’s Oktobeerfest! Go all stout this year.

by Betsy Autran, posted 13 September 2017 | Add comment

Pitcher yourself celebrating Oktoberfest in Munich this year! If you’re planning to go to Deutschland here’s what you need to know to experience the best of Bavaria.

Munich, Germany - September 29, 2016: The Interior of Loewenbraeu brewery's festive tent at Oktoberfest in Munich, people having fun and drinking beer.

Having a great time in the Loewenbraeu Brewery tent at Oktoberfest in Munich, 2016.

Making your way to Munich, from London

Thanks to excellent connections on Eurostar and Germany’s high-speed ICE trains, Munich is only 9 relaxing hours from London. No harrowing queues for airport security, no taxing taxi fees, no desperate airport parking. Just sit back in your cozy seat on one of Deutsche Bahn’s ICE trains and enjoy the ride as you’re propelled smoothly onward towards overflowing beer steins and sausage. ICE trains are considered the most comfortable and impressive high-speed trains in Europe, by the way. It’s possible to make this journey with only two hops, although some routes do have more connections. We recommend traveling via Brussels and Frankfurt which will get you there schooner than later.

If you’re worried about the cost, let it be the yeast of your worries. We checked out single fares for travel on September 16th by way of Brussels and Frankfurt, and it cost only €149.90 one-way. Compare this to the price of a last-minute airline ticket plus luggage fees and the stress of getting to and through the airport on time…. it’s elementary, my beer Watson. Did we mention that German ICE trains have no luggage restrictions?

old town square romerberg with Justitia statue in Frankfurt Germany

The Romerberg old town square in Frankfurt, Germany.

Chug in from Paris or Frankfurt

There’s much to be said for considering rail options from Paris or Frankfurt, if you’re looking to extend your holiday to more than one town. One-way fares from Paris begin at a very reasonable €75. Frankfurt is even better value, with one-way fares from just €40.

If you’ll be traveling from Frankfurt, we recommend purchasing the Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket. As the name implies, it’s a weekend ticket that remains valid all day on Saturday or Sunday. During its period of validity — up until 3 a.m. the following day, in case you want to make it a late night — you can make as many journeys as you wish on the regional transport. So, although you won’t be able to catch a high-speed ICE train, you could make excellent use of the Regional-Bahn (RB), the InterRegio-Express (IRE) and the Regional-Express (RE), plus the S-Bahn (a hybrid urban-suburban rail serving the metropolitan region) and more.

Better yet, if one passenger pays the €40 Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket fare and has four fellow passengers, they’ll pay only €4 for their own tickets, so long as the party travels together at all times. If you’re heading to Oktoberfest with a large group of friends and you’ve made more Weiss plans for your money, this is an excellent value. Not only can you get all the way from Frankfurt to Munich for little over a tenner each, you’ll then have a valid ticket to use the Munich S-Bahn to reach your hotel. That’s a beergain.

Weissewurst and pretzels, need you more motivation?

Weisswurst and pretzels, need you more motivation?

Get some Weisswurst in Bavaria

You shouldn’t restrict yourself to Munich when you have all of Bavaria within your reach. Once you’ve had your fill of the beer halls and you’ve suffered a humiliating dunk while trying to surf on the icy River Isar, get a hearty meal in a quaint nearby town like Lindau or Füssen. And for that, my friend, you and your mates need the Bayern-Ticket. One passenger pays €25, but the remaining four passengers only pay €6. That leaves you plenty of dough for pretzels, bratwurst, and kuchen! We advise you to consume your Bavarian banquet with caution: you don’t want to put your good health at risk just for an awesome deal on a train ticket.

Extra bonus: The Länderticket, like the Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket already mentioned, permits travel on suburban S-Bahn services. If you’ve had to settle for a hotel away from the city centre because everything’s been booked up for months by travellers more efficient than you, no big deal. Jump on the S-Bahn at no extra cost and go explore. Bavaria’s huge, so we guarantee you won’t run out of places to see. Try the seven types of beer brewed by the Benedictine monks at the Andechs Monastery, see who’s got the best head for heights at the vertigo inducing AlpspiX viewing platform at Garmisch-Partenkirchen or channel your inner fairytale at King Ludwig II’s Neuschwanstein Castle. You could even cross the border into Austria and visit Kufstein or Salzburg! They’re covered by the Länderticket and only a stone’s throw away from Munich.

To find regional tickets that are valid all day, conduct a search for a return journey within the region on our website. For in-depth information about Länder-Tickets and Schönes-Wochenende-Tickets check out our previous blog post.

example-of-regional-ticket

You can review the ticket conditions during your search.

Allow us to wheat your appetite

In case you’re looking for inspiration, we’ve already cooked up some ideas for you.

View from Malerwinkel at Lake Chiemsee.

The view at Lake Chiemsee.

Chiemsee

Just an hour from Munich, Chiemsee is Bavaria’s largest lake. It’s sometimes referred to as the Bavarian Sea and it’s wide enough to be tidal. Hop off the train at the town of Prien am Chiemsee and catch one of the ferries that run year-round to the two inhabited islands on the lake. On Herreninsel you’ll discover the unfinished palace built by King Ludwig II in 1873 and modelled after Versailles. The King died before construction was complete and although parts of the building were demolished, what remains is well worth a visit! The neighbouring island of Fraueninsel, also reachable by ferry, features an 8th century Benedictine convent.

Fussen, Germany - August 7, 2015: Beautiful view of world-famous Neuschwanstein Castle, the nineteenth-century Romanesque Revival palace built for King Ludwig II on a rugged cliff, with scenic mountain landscape near Fussen, southwest Bavaria, Germany.

Beautiful view of world-famous Neuschwanstein Castle near Füssen.

Füssen

Nestled in the heart of the Bavarian Alps and yet it’s still only a two hour train ride from Munich: Füssen lies at the end of Germany’s famous Romantic Road and does not disappoint with its clutch of charming historic buildings, including the Abbey of St Magnus and the High Castle. But the main draw lies just outside Füssen, in the town of Swangau, a short bus ride away. The fairytale castle of Neuschwanstein, featured in the classic movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, was built in the 19th century as a retirement retreat for King Ludwig II. Visitors can tour his state rooms and admire the same views which captured his imagination.

Bavarian church Kloster Andechs

Andechs Monastery offers a brewery tour followed by a refreshing beer tasting.

Andechs Monastery

Attainable by train from nearby Herrsching, the Andechs Monastery sits on a hill overlooking Lake Ammersee.  If the weather’s fine, it’s a rewarding hike to the top — and there’s even a biergarten in case you didn’t get your fill in Munich. Monks have been brewing beer here for centuries, though these days most of the action takes place at the foot of the hill where there’s more space. The brewery tour showcases the seven varieties of beer made here, and you can enjoy a tasting at the Bräustüberl afterwards. Back at Lake Ammersee, why not rent a boat or go for a rejuvenating dip?

You know what they say: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Except this time. This deal is lager than life.

The Austrian WESTbahn Tickets Have Arrived on Trainline Europe!

by Malin Schibler, posted 10 May 2017 | One comment

westbahn train austria

Our goal is to be your ultimate gateway to buying tickets for all rail operators in Europe; a booking platform that allows you to travel to where ever you wish to go. For that reason, we’re very proud to announce our partnership with WESTbahn. This is yet another step for us to enable your travel opportunities and master our ability in providing you with a comprehensive European booking platform. As of today, you’ll be able to book your WESTbahn tickets on Trainline Europe. So let’s get started and let us introduce you to our newest partner in the rail world.

The Express between two Austrian Metropoles: Vienna and Salzburg

WESTbahn has connected Austria’s capital city since 2011 with the birthplace of Mozart. You may know Mozart as the legendary composer or simply the name behind the delicious chocolates that reflect the delicacy of his music. WESTbahn was named after the same the route that has been operative since 1860, when the first train steamed it’s way from Vienna to Salzburg. Back then, the journey would take around nine hours, though you can be glad it now only takes about two and half.

For those looking to explore Austria, you can check many sightseeing wonders off your list with this route. In Vienna, you’ll begin by getting a full tank of cultural fuel by visiting the Museumsquartier, St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the beautiful baroque Belvedere castle. Fill yourself up with some culinary energy with nothing less than a hearty Schnitzel, potato salad and some good old apple strudel. Then digest it all on the WESTbahn as you travel towards the east of the country.

Make an In-Between Stop in Linz!

As WESTbahn tickets allow you to get on and off the train in between your final destination, we recommend making a stop at Linz. Step out of the train, stretch your legs along the Donau river and admire the ROA street art by the harbour. For the young: it’s your chance to take a nice picture for your Instagram and them hipster credits. For those who are a bit older, it’s your opportunity to familiarise yourself with a more civilised form of what used to be called graffiti art.

If you simply would like relaxing some beach-time in this land-locked country, then make yourself comfortable in the city’s Sandburg. Be sure that you stock up on some provisions for your onward journey by getting an aptly named Linzertorte. What is it you may ask? It’s a traditional cake from Linz, rumoured to be the oldest cake in the world and a holiday season classic! Though we recommend eating it all year round (and certainly not one that has been around since the dawn of time – that certainly wouldn’t digest well). Once you’re done, get yourself back on board and continue on to Salzburg, where you can walk and trace the tracks of Mozart – right up to his birthplace – in the UNESCO world heritage historic centre. You’ll certainly not be short of any further desserts – the famed Salzburger Nockerl soufflé are certainly worth the journey (and calories)!

Sunny panoramic image of Salzburg's famous old town with Alps in the background

Salzburg, Austria.

Cheap Train Tickets and Friendly Fare Conditions

The standard price of WESTbahn tickets are up to 50% cheaper than the national rail operator ÖBB’s tickets for the same route. The prices are fixed and unlike other rail operators, do not depend on how far in advance you book, which is what they call yield management in the rail industry. So you can book these tickets on a whim, especially if you feel like a day trip to or from any of the destinations served by WESTbahn:

Wien Westbahnhof to Salzburg: Standard fare €26.50; WESTbahn Plus €46.40.
Salzburg to Westbahnhof: Standard fare €26.50; WESTbahn Plus €46.40.
Wien Westbahnhof to Linz: Standard fare €19,60; WESTbahn Plus €39.50.
Linz to Wien Westbahnhof: Standard fare €19.60; WESTbahn Plus €39.50.
Linz to Salzburg: Standard fare €13.40; WESTbahn Plus €27.30.
Salzburg – Linz: Standard fare €13, 40; WESTbahn Plus €27.30.

If you indulged on some sweet and hearty Austrian desserts then do not worry – you can spare yourself some extra room! With the WESTbahn Plus ticket, you’ll have an extra free seat next to you. This will provide you with greater legroom, food and drinks served to your seat (in case you want to treat yourself some more) and you’ll get a daily newspaper too – so get ready to practice your German!

What about an offer for kids?

WESTbahn has made sure that kids are also covered with some great fare prices. Children up to 6 years travel free of charge and they do not require a ticket. Please note that these children must not travel unaccompanied and that WESTbahn cannot offer any assistance for them. So they will have to be in the company of someone older that can assist them with their travels e.g. a parent, friend or sibling.

For children aged 6 to 14 years (on the day of travel) who travel in the company of an adult with a valid WESTbahn ticket, are charged € 1.00 – irrespective of the distance travelled. An adult can take along a maximum of 4 children paying €1.00 each. If you travel with a WESTbahn PLUS ticket, the upgrade fare will be charged for all accompanying children older than 6 years.

Children from 6 to 14 years (on the day of travel) who travel on their own, the fifth (or more) accompanying children only pay half of the regular full fare. Lastly, please be aware that the ticket inspector is allowed to ask for a photo ID in cases of doubt about the age of a child. So it’s always useful to make sure the kids have some ID with them!

Flexibility all year round

For those that suffer from commitment issues and like to leave their plans open, you can be glad to know that if your ticket is purchased online, it’s valid for an entire year! Plus you can make as many stops as you like on the way.

With Trainline Europe, you will of course also be receiving a special promotional offer with WESTbahn, such as the Spring WESTsavers Days (WESTspartage Frühling), which is valid until the 29th of June.

WESTbahn’s Blue, White and Green Speedsters

westbahn train inside

The double decker (duplex) trains provide you with plenty of amenities. You’ll find the WESTcafé, which provides you with a vending machine for drinks, an air-conditioned and filtered smoking lounge. Yet the non-smokers have no need to worry, you can easily steer free from it as it’s closed off from the rest of the train. Toilets are of course provided on board. Plus there are bike spaces available, for which you can buy a reservation online for €5 or for €10 on board the train.

On top of this, there is free WiFi in all WESTbahn trains, so you’ll be able to keep your friends up to date and make them jealous with your holiday pictures as you’re on the go. Don’t forget to send them to us either, we’d love to receive a picture of your trip on Twitter. The top speed of these trains is 200 km/h (that’s around 124 miles per hour), which isn’t as fast as some of the other high-speed trains, yet it gives you all the more opportunity to enjoy the beautiful scenery that passes you by.

Head to Austria and Beyond with WESTbahn

Westbahn Network Map

WESTbahn rail network and international connections

Thanks to the cooperation with WESTbahn and Meridian (a regional rail operator) in Germany’s Bavaria, there are 15 daily services between Vienna and Munich. You can simply step off in Salzburg and hop on to a Meridian Train – on the same platform – and it will bring you to Munich. The journey from Salzburg to Munich (via Rosenheim) takes just about 2 hours, so you can enjoy a creamy dose of caffeine in a traditional Viennese coffee house in Vienna and 4.5 hours later, you’ll already be drinking a cold beer in one of Munich’s famed beer halls.

From Munich, you’ll find plenty of trains and connections heading in any direction that you wish: whether it’s onwards to Berlin for some sightseeing and night clubbing or to Zurich for some delicious chocolate tasting. From Zurich, you can take a Trenitalia train directly to Milan if you’re after some good old shopping. You can also jump off the train at Rosenheim instead of heading to Munich and there you’ll find plenty of Deutsche Bahn trains that will take you to Innsbruck, Bozen, Verona, with a final stop in Venice, where you can finish off the journey with a sunset gondola ride.